The scandal stems from the discovery by Irish authorities in early
2013 of horse meat in frozen burgers labeled "pure beef".
Investigations widened when British frozen foods group Findus [FODVT.UL]
found horse meat in lasagna made by the Luxembourg unit of frozen
food specialist Comigel, Tavola.
Investigations to determine how horsemeat ended up in ready meals
sold across Europe homed in on Spanghero, which supplied the meat
used in the lasagnas from abattoirs in Romania via two companies
based in Cyprus and the Netherlands.
France's consumer protection agency has said the fraud involved 540
tonnes of horse meat sold on to Tavola and 200 tonnes used by
Spanghero itself in Merguez sausages. The meat was used in 4.5
million ready meals that were sold in more than a dozen European
Investigators allege Spanghero knew it was buying frozen horse meat
and switched the customs code on the packaging.
Former Spanghero boss Jacques Poujol and an ex-plant director,
Patrice Monguillon, are being tried alongside two traders from the
Dutch and Cypriot firms.
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The scandal cast a spotlight on food labeling and the complex supply
chain across the EU trading bloc, damaging Europeans' confidence in
the food on their plate and putting pressure on governments to
explain lapses in quality control.
A lawyer for Poujol told Reuters ex-Spanghero director did not know
he was being sold horsemeat - an argument contested by his
co-defendant Johannes Fasen, a Dutch food trader and executive at
Cyprus-based Draap Trading.
"My client sold the horse meat to Mr Poujol because he ordered horse
meat. He sold the horse meat to Poujol at horse meat price and
Spanghero sold it on as beef at 1. 50 euros a kilo more. So who
profits from this crime," said Fasen's lawyer.
The four men are charged with defrauding customers and consumers and
face a maximum ten years in jail and a fine of 1 million euros.
(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by
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