Prosecution demands five years imprisonment for consumer fraud with horse meat
24 maart 2015 - Functioneel Parket
Today, before the District Court in Den Bosch, the Functional Office of the Public Prosecution Service (Prosecution) demanded five years imprisonment against meat processor Willy S. from Oss because according to the Prosecution in 2011 and 2012 he committed the offence of large scale meat adulteration when selling horse meat as beef.
Today, before the District Court in Den Bosch, the Functional Office of the Public Prosecution Service (Prosecution) demanded five years imprisonment against meat processor Willy S. from Oss because according to the Prosecution in 2011 and 2012 he committed the offence of large scale meat adulteration when selling horse meat as beef. “By his actions, he grossly violated consumer confidence in the safety and quality of meat. He has thrown away the Netherlands’ reputation as a meat exporting country. Only a long prison term is the appropriate answer in this case.”
Cause for the inquiry
At Willy S.’ meat company carcasses were boned and cut. He supplied artisan butchers in the region, meat wholesalers and the meat processing industry at home and abroad. The inquiry started in early 2013 after remains of horses had been found in hamburgers at one of S.’ customers. Internal investigation revealed that raw materials for the burgers originated from S. In addition, horse remains were also found in another batch of raw materials. This batch also came from S. The accompanying documents stated that the meat was 100% beef. After this incident, the suspicion arose that S. could be guilty of forgery and of defrauding his customers.
The investigation subsequently launched by the NVWA-IOD shows a shocking image. It is suspected that in 2011 and 2012, S. received over 300.000 kg of horse meat. According to the investigation, from the moment the horse meat arrived at the company up to the moment it was sold to various customers, the books and documentation were systematically adjusted. From purchase invoice to weigh list, delivery notes, order forms, entry into the administrative system, weighing labels, withdrawal orders and sales invoices. At no point horse meat was registered. Therefore, the books were false. And not only that: in statements to customers S. claimed that his company only processed beef. “These statements were false too” the Public Prosecutor said during the trial.
Prison term and confiscation claim
“Preparing and using false documents enabled the Defendant to defraud his customers.” And, according to the Prosecution, S. not only deceived his customers. At the trial the Public Prosecutor called him a “master of deception”: “He deceived the supervisor, his staff and ultimately the consumer. And why did he do this? Money, money and more money. His only thought was his pocket”, the Public Prosecutor stated at the hearing, and “By his actions he did not take the slightest notice of all rules and regulations with respect to food safety and consumer trust and brought damage to our reputation as a meat exporting nation. Customers and consumers who thought they were buying pure beef were cheated. Our trust in the food we eat suffered a severe setback.” But, according to the Prosecution, the Defendant’s modus operandi had another bad side: “Because of the procedure that was followed, it is impossible to find out where the horse meat originally came from and where it finally ended up. With all the risks and consequences. By entirely concealing the supply and processing of the horse meat, the total meat stock of the Defendant for 2011 and 2012 can no longer be traced.” And this raises many questions, the Public Prosecutor said during the trial: “How about the safety of all the meat supplied? Given the poor registration of horses and the fraud that is taking place with horse passports, this is doubtful. Meat or cattle can be contaminated with pathogens, for example by the use of drugs such as phenylbutazone, but also because of unsanitary conditions during the slaughtering process.” According to the Prosecution, processing 300.000 kg of horse meat is a “large scale” process. The meat sector is an important and major economic sector in the Netherlands. “Therefore, the conduct of the Defendant has been extremely damaging for the reputation and integrity of the Dutch meat processing industry at home and abroad.” This is why the Prosecution deems a term of imprisonment of five years appropriate.
At the hearing a confiscation claim was announced, because “crime must not pay”.
The Court’s judgement will be pronounced in two weeks.The Court’s judgement will be pronounced in two weeks.