What you need to know about the Spanghero case, whose trial opened this week

What you need to know about the Spanghero case, whose trial opened this week

Two former managers of the Spanghero company and two Dutch traders are being prosecuted for “deception” and “organized gang fraud”. Le Figaro traces the chronology of the horse meat scandal, which broke out in 2013.

Six years after the first revelations on dishes cooked with horse meat instead of beef, justice will finally rule on this agri-food scandal which made the headlines in 2013. At the time, this affair which touched the meat processing company Spanghero had exposed flaws in the traceability of meat in Europe. Since Monday, January 21, two former executives of the company as well as their Dutch intermediaries appear on the dock. Reminder of the chronology of events.

● January 2013, the first suspicions

British health authorities discovered in mid-January 2013 that products in Ireland actually contained horse meat. Ten days later, we learn that contaminated horse carcasses had been sold in France a year earlier, from Great Britain. Sufficient to challenge European companies.

Findus, a Swedish company, is alerted by its French lasagna subcontractor: Comigel. Thus, the latter noticed that the Tavola company was providing him with meat from a Romanian slaughterhouse exploiting beef and horses. Tavola’s supplier happens to be a French company based in Castelnaudary, which quickly arouses many suspicions. The tests carried out by Findus are conclusive: horse meat is indeed present in its lasagna.

● February 8, 2013, the scandal breaks out

According to the DGCCRF, nearly 750 tonnes of falsely labeled meat left the Spanghero plant. Some 550 tonnes were delivered to Tavola, which therefore cooked 4.5 million dishes for 13 countries in the European Union. Despite the absence of health risk, the scandal is resounding.

Comigel then announced the withdrawal of all its suspicious products and implicated its supplier, indirectly the company Spanghero. On February 12, horse meat is found in frozen Picard lasagna. An investigation is opened, instructed by Serge Tournaire, and brings out four names, all today on the dock.

● February 14, 2013, Spanghero is accused

The former leader of Spanghero are the first concerned by justice. They are suspected of having deceived Tavola by selling it, between 2012 and early 2013, 550 tonnes of meat presented as beef when it was horse. But Spanghero officials are not the only ones targeted by the investigation. They would have been in touch with two Dutch traders, Jan Fasen and Hans Windmeijer, whose activities of buying and selling meat in Europe are still shrouded in gray areas today. Using dark companies, notably the one owned by, the two traders supplied numerous suppliers including Spanghero.

The latter will be a few weeks later placed in compulsory liquidation. Lur Berri, who owned the company, decides to sell it. Laurent Spanghero, founder of the company in 1970, is appointed as buyer. He changed the name of the company to “La Lauragaise” and kept 90 of the 240 employees at the time. He will file for bankruptcy a year later.

Organized fraud?

The investigation brought to light certain elements, which could testify to an organized fraud between Spanghero and Dutch businessmen. First element: the labels. Issued by Spanghero, they were supposed to convey transparent information about the product. These labels indicated that the meat was cut and processed by Spanghero, but in reality it came from Romania, Belgium or Canada. In addition, the horse meat produced was labeled under the name “boneless beef avant”. The ambiguous relationship between trader Jan Fasen and Jacques Poujol may also point to organized fraud.

Jacques Poujol “appears to be involved in the foreground as responsible for fraud within the Spanghero company, particularly in view of the close relations he was able to forge with Jan Fasen” indicates Judge Tournaire. The Dutch trader, repeatedly questioned by the courts, was convicted in the Netherlands in 2012 for labeling fraud for having sold horse meat in 2012 and 2013 to. In the same trial, Hans Windmeijer was sentenced to community service.

● January 26, 2018, referral to correctional

The examining magistrate then ordered on January 26 that the four protagonists be sent back for correctional purposes. They are then tried, since Monday, for “deception” and “organized gang fraud”.

According to the order for reference, “even if his responsibility appears less central”, it is said that Patrice Monguillon, the former director of the site, “contributed to the realization of the fraud, in particular by formalizing and supporting the directives. by Jacques Poujol ”. Although they are not legally concerned, Comigel and its subsidiary Tavola are accused of their negligence by the judge. “A simple visual examination” would have revealed that some labels were false.

Defense of the parties

Since the start of the scandal, each of the protagonists has discharged all responsibility. Contacted by Le Figaro, one of Jacques Pujol’s lawyers believes that his client is the main victim of this case. Denouncing the lack of transparency of the Dutch partners, Maître Vey considers that his client “could not have known” that the meat was from the horse. The conviction of Jan Fasen in 2012 meeting exactly “the same conditions” of fraud demonstrates “the manipulation” of which his client was the victim, claims the criminal lawyer.

For his part, the defense of Jan Fasen requires the release pure and simple. The Dutch trader has never hidden his horse selling activity, believes his lawyer. As proof, the word “Draap” present in the corporate name “Draap Trading Ldt” (his company) is the anagram of “Praad” which means “horse” in Dutch. Jan Fasen is even called “the King of the Horse” completes his lawyer. In addition, Maître Triomphe considers that one question is missing from the debate: “who benefits from the crime?” The price of a horse per kilo is significantly lower than that of beef, so the lawyer believes that Spanghero had a financial interest in selling his horse meat at the price of beef.

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