Frenchman gets 6-month prison term over horsemeat fraud

French meat supplier of French food company Spanghero's procurement manager Jacques Poujol arrives at the court house in Paris, on Jan 21, 2019.
French meat supplier of French food company Spanghero's procurement manager Jacques Poujol arrives at the court house in Paris, on Jan 21, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - The former director of a French meat processing firm was sentenced on Tuesday (April 16) to six months in prison over a 2013 scandal which saw millions of meals withdrawn from European supermarkets after they were found to contain horsemeat instead of beef.

A Paris court found Jacques Poujol of Spanghero, the company at the heart of the scandal, guilty of fraud and ordered the confiscation of 100,000 euros (S$152,902.29) in cash seized at his home by investigators.

He was on trial alongside a fellow executive and two meat traders from the Netherlands.

The alleged racket saw cheap horsemeat from Belgium, Romania and Canada imported into France and then labelled incorrectly as beef, with the meat processing company Spanghero and the Dutch middlemen pocketing the profits.

The four men were accused of selling more than 500 tonnes of horsemeat passed off as beef to Comigel, a maker of ready-to-eat meals, between 2012 and 2013.

After British inspectors discovered the fraud, supermarkets across Europe pulled millions of suspect food products like frozen lasagne and meatballs from their shelves in 2013, deepening concerns about the meat industry and food safety on the continent.

Poujol, who had already spent four months behind bars during the investigation, declined to comment after the ruling was issued.

Patrice Monguillon, manager of the Spanghero factory in southern France, was given a suspended one-year sentence.

Dutch middleman Johannes Fasen was sentenced to two years in prison, and his former associate Hendricus Windmeijer got a one-year suspended sentence.

Both Dutchmen have convictions for a similar fraud in 2012 in their home country.

All four accused were cleared of charges of conspiracy, though the two Frenchmen were also found guilty of tampering with evidence.