Dutchman at heart of Europe's horse meat scandal charged in France

PARIS (AFP) - A Dutch businessman at the heart of a horsemeat scandal that prompted a health scare across Europe last year has been charged and held in France, a judicial source told AFP.

Jan Fasen, who is in his sixties and runs a Cyprus-based firm named Draap Trading, was placed in custody on April 8 and charged with fraud following a probe into the scandal in which horsemeat was mislabelled and sold as ready meals containing beef.

Fasen's lawyer Jerome Triomphe said his client voluntarily turned up for questioning and added that he denied the charges.

The scandal sent governments scrambling to track down how the mislabelling occurred in the sprawling chain of production, spanning abattoirs and meat suppliers across Europe.

The European Commission ordered EU-wide tests of food which showed that almost one in 20 meals marketed as beef was likely to be tainted with horsemeat.

The highest numbers of horsemeat-tainted products were found in France, Greece, Latvia and Denmark in that order.

The scandal implicated millions of meatballs in Ikea stores in several countries, sausages in Russia and frozen burgers in Britain's Tesco chain.

A Dutch court earlier slapped a 50,000 euro (S$87,000) fine on Fasen and gave him a six-month suspended sentence for selling horsemeat in France as halal beef between 2007 and 2009.