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'A true master of deception': Horsemeat trader jailed in Netherlands

Willy Selten has protested his innocence.

File photo
File photo
Image: PA Images

A DUTCH COURT has jailed meat wholesaler Willy Selten for two-and-a-half years for his role in Europe’s massive horsemeat scandal in 2013.

“As boss of two companies [Selten] was guilty of forging invoices, labels and written declarations and using these forged documents to trade meat,” the court in Den Bosch said in its judgement today.

Dutch prosecutors were looking for a five-year sentence for Selten.

Public prosecutor Ingeborg Koopmans previously told the court Selten was “a true master of deception”.

“He deceived his staff, his supervisors and consumers, whose confidence have been harmed … The reputation of the Dutch meat industry has been damaged,” Koopman added.

Prosecutors said they found 33 examples of false accounts, including at least one statement where meat was processed as 100% beef when it actually contained both beef and horsemeat.

In other instances, receipts were made up for meat deliveries that were never made, court papers showed.

Koopmans said the mixing of horsemeat and beef probably went on on a “larger scale” than indicated by the documents.

Innocence

An emotional Selten protested his innocence in court, although he agreed that mistakes had been made.

“We have made mistakes in our bookkeeping,” he said.

His company went bankrupt after the controversy.

“For 25 years, every day, every month, every year I have given priority to the quality of my meat,” a teary Selten said.

“A member of an organised crime group? The source of all of Europe’s misery? I am finished. I am not the big horsemeat swindler they’re all looking for. I was careless with my administration, but not intentionally,” he said.

In a weekend interview with Dutch news agency ANP, Selten said “beef cuts and horse cuts were stored in the freezer with the same article number”.

“I forgot to give them different numbers and it’s wrong what happened. Of course we should have exercised better control,” he said.

Thousands of DNA tests on European beef products after the scandal revealed extensive food fraud across the European Union, with almost one in 20 meals marked as beef likely to be tainted with horsemeat.

- © AFP, 2015

Read: Coveney: Horsemeat scandal a result of bad management, not illegal management

Read: Iceland forced to withdraw ad that claimed Irish food authority was “unaccredited”

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