Andronicos Sideras, 55, was found guilty on July 26 after a three-week trial at Inner London Crown Court. The guilty verdict was hailed as a “significant landmark” for the Food Standards Agency by its chairman Heather Hancock, which started investigating horsemeat contamination in 2013.
Hancock said: “This guilty verdict is a welcome outcome. It sends a strong message that we will not tolerate fraudulent activity and I hope today’s conviction is a major deterrent to those who think they can profit from duping consumers.”
Sideras was convicted of fraudulently adding horsemeat to the food chain after Alex Beech, 44, and Ulrik Nielsen, 58, pleaded guilty in October for their role in the fraud.
Fraudulently adding horsemeat to the food chain
The FSA asked the City of London Police to investigate meat-trading company Flexi Foods in 2013, which had offices in Hull, and was owned by Nielsen. Beech was Flexi Foods’s UK representative.
The police searched Flexi Foods, and uncovered emails and documents showing a conspiracy to add horsemeat to the food chain to boost its profits. Nielsen and Beech were arrested in July 2013.
Police also searched meat firm Dino’s and Sons – owned by Sideras – as Flexi Foods sent numerous consignments of meat to the Tottenham-based business. Sideras was arrested in July 2013.
Further investigations found Nielsen and Beech were buying horsemeat from Ireland, and were sourcing beef from Poland. All of the meat was delivered to Dino’s and Sons, where it was mixed together and sold as 100% pure beef.
Sideras’s fingerprints were also found on pallet labels attached to a consignment of mixed horse and beef meat in Northern Ireland.
Increased profits by about 40%
The 10-month conspiracy, beginning in 2012, increased Flexi Foods’s profits by about 40%, it was revealed.
City of London Police’s Fraud Squad detective constable Stephen Briars said: “This is a clear case of fraud; the fact that the case revolves around meat and the food chain makes no difference to this crime. A lie is a lie whatever the circumstances.
“These three men set out to deceive the suppliers, retailers and ultimately the consumer so that they could make more money.
“This case has involved a real team effort with staff from the City of London Police, working closely with our partners from local authorities, the Food Standards Agency, and the food industry to gather the evidence necessary to prove this unique and challenging case.”
All three men will be sentenced in due course, according to the FSA.