Food fraudsters each get five year prison sentences
On the 9 March 2017, two men who supplied 116 tonnes of vacuum packed boneless turkey thigh pieces described as boneless halal lamb leg had been found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud after a 5 week trial.
Mahmudur Rohman, 46, of Rothbart Way, Peterborough and Kamal Rahman, 54, of Derby Drive, Peterborough sold the meat to butchers and restaurants.
Two other men, Mohammed Anwarul Hoque, 56, and Mohammed Zunaid Hoque, 25, both of Uplands Road in Leicester, were found not guilty.
The investigation began after the Leicester City Council Food Safety team started a programme of testing in 2013, in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.
The 21-month deception took place over a period during 2013 and 2014 was uncovered by Leicester City Council's Trading Standards following sampling by its Environmental Health Officers. This revealed meat being supplied as lamb to shops and restaurants throughout the East Midlands and as far afield as Middlesbrough and Portsmouth, was in fact turkey.
Leicester City Council's trading standards traced the "lamb" to now defunct Peterborough-based Dutch Bangla Direct Ltd, whose director was Mahmudur Rohman.
During the investigation Trading standards officers also seized forged certificates which indicated that the meat had been certified as halal - meaning it had been slaughtered according to Islamic ritual and was suitable for consumption by Muslims.
It is estimated that Dutch Bangla Direct Ltd made a profit of between £300,000 and £400,000 between January 2013 and October 2014.
Rohman was also found guilty of three counts of selling food not of the nature, quality and substance demanded, three counts of giving or displaying food exposed for sale but labelled wrongly, making a false instrument and possessing an article used in fraud, failing to keep a proper traceability of food and failing to notify changes to the food authority.
Rahman was also found guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
The prosecution was brought by Leicester City Council, and the investigation was principally carried out by Trading Standards Officers working on behalf of the Council.
Following the sentencing hearing on the 19th April 2017, the men each received sentences of five years imprisonment for their roles in the fraud. Both were also disqualified from acting as company directors for 4 years.
The sentencing marked the culmination of a 3 year investigation by Leicester City Council, Trading Standards Service. Trading Standards officers and Environmental Health Officers throughout the Trading Standards East Midlands region also assisted in the investigation of this case.
Investigating this case which involved obtaining witness statements from affected businesses who were located as far as Middlesbrough and Portmonth and securing their attendance at the trial to give live evidence was a significant challenge in this case.
Further the international dimension to this investigation meant that upon Leicester City Council Trading Standards request the German and Dutch food authorities visited and obtained witness statement from their businesses which were key to the trial. This cross border co-operation was very effective and duly appreciated by Trading Standards.
During the investigation, Trading Standards Officers executed a number of warrants and seized certificates which indicated the meat had been certified as halal. However the certificates were subsequently proven to be fakes. This aspect of the case – fraud by false representation, proved to be of particular relevance in sentencing as the fake certificates were used to induce customers to believe they were buying genuinely certified halal meat.
In his sentencing Judge Tregilgas-Davey said that the fraud was ‘motivated by greed and financial gain and had a devastating effect, socially, culturally and commercially on the people of the midlands’;
“The number of people affected by the fraud was high: it includes the 50 or so outlets that Dutch Bangla Direct sold to, but also all the customers who bought from those shops and restaurants. Perhaps the most aggravating factor in the case is that non-Halal meat was sold on as Halal meat. I take on board that the meat supplied had been slaughtered in a Halal compliant manner, but it was not certified. I witnessed during trial how distressing it was to individuals that they themselves and their families had consumed this non-Halal meat, and how distressing it was that they supplied on to their customers”
He also stated that;
‘Thanks must go to Trading Standards for their complex and thorough investigation, which has shown that those who deceive the public will be pursued, caught and brought to justice. By doing so, Trading Standards have restored some integrity and confidence to the supply chain of meat to outlets in the East Midlands, that the Defendants had so badly damaged.’
Confiscation enquiries under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to identify and recover assets of the convicted individuals are underway.