This week a horse from rural Galway known as ‘Carnesella Lady’ was central to the latest trail in the ongoing saga of the European wide horsemeat scam.
In 2013, Irish food safety authorities detected beefburgers containing horsemeat. This marked the start of an investigation to find out the origin of the contamination; the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone was found in the meat.
London Crown Court heard how Danish-owned company FlexiFoods would buy horsemeat and beef from suppliers across Europe and have it delivered to a restaurant known as Dinos in Tottenham, north London.
In this case, some of the meat in question was traced back to the Irish hunter ‘Carnesella Lady’
How did this happen?
Police in the UK said their 'complex investigation' involved enquiries in Denmark, Ireland, Poland, France, Holland and Italy.
The investigation discovered that during 2012 two men were buying horsemeat from Ireland and sourcing beef from Poland.
This meat was then all delivered to a premises in Tottenham where the mixing of these different meat consignments would take place and also the application of false paperwork and labels to make it look like all the meat was 100pc pure beef.
The disguised products would then be sold on as beef without the buyer being aware of any horse meat having been introduced.
Horse ID found
The plot unravelled in September 2012 when one of the loads ended up in a meat store in Newry, Northern Ireland, and a surprise health inspection by Newry and Mourne District Council later revealed a third of the pallets contained horsemeat.
Horse ID chips, roughly the size of a grain of rice, were also found in the meat.
They belonged to two horses named Trak and Wiktor from the Lodz region of Poland, and a third Irish hunter horse called Carnesella Lady, from rural county Galway.
The horses had all been owned by farmers who sold them on to parties who police said failed to re-register the animals, meaning they could only be traced back to their original owners.
The animals had not been sold for slaughter and there is no suggestion the farmers had any involvement in the conspiracy, police said.
Mixing in cheaper horsemeat to the beef allowed the scammers to increase the profit on each consignment by approximately 40pc. The type of meat in question is known as “trimming” and is used in products such as minced meat, sausages, pies and ready meals.
Detective Constable Stephen Briars, the officer who led the case for the City of London Police’s Fraud Squad said this was 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," he said.
The Irish Department of Agriculture said it does not comment on the detail of its role in investigations which are the subject of court proceedings in this country or elsewhere.
However, it said that Irish authorities were the first to discover and disclose the issue of adulteration of beef with horsemeat; and that was essentially a ‘wakeup call’ for what turned out to be a pan-European problem.
Earlier this month a separate investigation Spanish police, in coordination with Europol, dismantled an organised crime group that was trading horsemeat in Europe.
The operation was carried out in coordination with Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland and the UK.
In Spain, 65 people were arrested and charged with crimes such as animal abuse, document forgery, perverting the course of justice, crimes against public health, money laundering and being part of a criminal organisation.
Meat companies, frozen food companies and fast-food companies were affected by the investigation, which led to the identification of a Dutch citizen known in the horsemeat world, who led a European-wide horsemeat trading ring, with crimes against public health, money laundering and being part of a criminal organisation now stacking up against those involved.