Two plead guilty to conspiracy in horsemeat fraud case

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Two plead guilty to conspiracy in horsemeat fraud scandal
Two plead guilty to conspiracy in horsemeat fraud scandal

Related tags Food standards agency Police Fraud

Two men have pleaded guilty of conspiracy to defraud in selling horsemeat instead of beef.

Alex Ostler-Beech, aged 44 from Hull, and Ulrik Nielsen, aged 57 of Gentofte, Denmark, both pleaded guilty to the charge at a hearing in Inner London Court on Wednesday (October 26).

Three men had been charged with fraud offences for allegedly conspiring to sell horsemeat as beef. They were charged following an investigation into how food products became adulterated with horsemeat by the City of London Police.

The charges detailed that the three of them between January 1 2012 and October 31 2012 conspired together, and with others, to defraud purchasers of goods that contained, wholly or in part, a mixture of beef and horsemeat, by dishonestly arranging for beef and horsemeat to be combined for sale as beef. 

The third defendant in the case, Andronicos Sideras, 54, from London, pleaded not guilty and will face trial. Both Ostler-Beech and Nielsen will be sentenced after this case.

Complex international criminal investigation

The charges followed a complex international criminal investigation that saw the City of London Police, which is the national policing lead for fraud, working in partnership with the Food Standards Agency and Crown Prosecution Service, as well as law enforcement agencies from across the UK and Europe.

City of London Police detectives first arrested Ostler-Beech in Hull and Sideras in London in July 2013.

In August, Nielsen was also interviewed under caution in Hull along with a 52-year-old man.

The 52-year-old man was released with no further action.


Andy Morling, head of the Food Crime unit at the Food Standards Agency took to Twitter to welcome the news. He said: Two early guilty pleas a reflection of the solid investigation”.

Dominic Watkins, a partner at law firm DWF and expert on food fraud, said food fraud was complicated crime to investigate.

“It is complex to work through the supply chain," ​said Watkins. "It is good to see these cases being brought.”

Watkins, who spoke at Food Manufacture​’s food safety conference ‘Boosting consumer confidence in times of change’, held earlier this month (October 13) in London, said that many cases prosecuted tended to be for traceability and record keeping failings rather than specifically for fraud.

“It is reassuring the prosecutions are taking place,​ he said. ​It is reassuring and significant that they have chosen to plead guilty to fraud,” 

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Slap on the Wrist

Posted by Vicky Johnson,

The EU is STILL importing horsemeat from Canada - over 60% of Canadian horsemeat is from United States entirely unregulated horses - deemed Canadian by the stroke of a pen. Horse dealers are allowed to fabricate foreign medical history papers because they are not required here, the US doesnt even keep a copy, and no checks.
The authorities and industry knows without a doubt, that unregulated, adulterated horses are entering human food. A slap on the wrist - US unregulated, adulterated horses are STILL exported for slaughter. It is terrorrism.

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Assuring and effective?

Posted by overseaschinese,

Prosecuting two individuals after all these years is quite disheartening in regards to its efficiency of the legal system. What's even more frightening is that there is little to no news about the real current situation.

Are manufacturers still having the possibility to purchase such meat in the industry? What has happened to these two individual companies? Horse meat being cheaper than beef should also sound the alarm of hazardous meat, rather than a food fraud. It's a food safety crisis.

We should learn more on how China tackle issues on food safety. They take it seriously within weeks, if not days. They shut down the factories and companies involved. They completely trace all possible sources and start investigations. They ensure that not only a few individuals are prosecuted, but all individuals in management and stakeholders involved.

And soon to follow, they control traceability of all food-related materials at the national level, which no other country have this in place.

We should really take it seriously like the Chinese.

One may argue that the horsemeat scandal is a rare case. But it'd be better if systems are in place to ensure what the reality is providing us with, rather than fantasies.

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