Horse meat trader jailed in the Netherlands
Published 07/04/2015 | 14:22
The businessman at the centre of the horse meat scandal has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
A Dutch court found that two meat wholesalers owned by Willy Selten had bought and processed a minimum of 330 tonnes (336,000 kg) of horsemeat in 2011 and 2012, selling it on to customers who believed they were buying pure beef.
The Europe-wide fraud, by falsely labelled horsemeat, led to thousands of tonnes of meat being recalled.
"By selling largely to foreign buyers he contributed to a negative image of the Dutch beef industry, causing damage to the sector" for his own profit, the district court in Den Bosch said.
Selten got half the jail term prosecutors had demanded.
Agriculture is crucial to the economy of the Netherlands, which, despite having a population of just 17 million people, is the world's second-largest agricultural exporter.
The horsemeat scandal broke in January 2013 after genetic tests found traces of horsemeat in burgers sold at in Irish and British supermarkets.
Meatballs at Ikea stores, sausages in Russia and frozen burgers in Britain were pulled from the shelves by the millions as a result.
Adulterated beef products were discovered across Europe, with suppliers in France and the Netherlands also found to have mislabelled horsemeat.
Selten had told the court that the mislabelling was due to carelessness and was unintentional. But the court rejected this explanation, pointing out that accounts and invoices did not indicate that the company dealt in horsemeat at all.
According to prosecutors, Selten's companies bought 300 tonnes of horsemeat from suppliers in the Netherlands, Ireland and Britain in 2011 and 2012, selling it to more than 500 companies across Europe.
The scandal led to at least 50,000 tonnes of meat being recalled across the region.
Seltan had previously told Dutch news agency ANP that he expected to be acquitted and maintained that he had no knowledge of the deals.