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Eighteen defendants, including four Belgians, two Dutch, but also French veterinarians and traders: the trial of a vast European horsemeat scam began on Tuesday in Marseille for three weeks, with the main suspect an important Belgian horse trader.
Tried since Tuesday, June 7 before the 6th chamber of the Marseille criminal court, in the courtroom of the “non-standard trials” of the former barracks of Muy, 18 defendants – horse dealers, touts and veterinarians – are notably prosecuted for fraud and complicity in fraud in an organized gang, as well as for deception involving a danger to human health.
Having arrived early in the room where many journalists were already present, Jean-Marc Decker, 58, a Belgian national suspected of being the “pivot” of this “vast international horse traffic”, is thus authorized for having introduced into the food chain of animals unfit for consumption.
At the helm, before the very educational president of the court, the defendants, of whom only 13 were physically present on Tuesday morning, are being prosecuted for acts committed between 2010 and 2015. In particular, they allegedly committed numerous breaches of European regulations concerning imported horses from European Union countries.
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The only legal person prosecuted in this case is a wholesale company selling horse meat from the Gard.
“They fooled everyone”
Fifties or sixties for the most part, several suppliers of Jean-Marc Decker are implicated for having supplied him with animals “unfit for consumption”, thanks to false documents blurring the traceability of the animals. Some would even have deceived the former owners of the animals on their intention to lead them to the slaughterhouse.
At the end of the chain, the wholesale company Equi’d Sud d’Alès and its manager Georges Gonzales are accused of “indifference vis-à-vis the health imperatives governing their profession”. This company, which provided 80 details from the south of France, falsely led to believe in the French origin of the meat.
The trial, scheduled until June 24, was to enter the heart of the case on Tuesday afternoon with the comparison of the official veterinarian of the municipal slaughterhouse of Alès, where the investigation had started in 2013. This same year had was signaled by another Europe-wide scandal of horse meat concealed in theoretically beef dishes – in France, this had been detected in particular in Findus lasagna.
The national council of the order of veterinarians, the municipality of Alès and the National Interprofessional Association of Livestock and Meat (ANBV) have notably brought civil action.
Aline Oudin, former owner of a horse she had appointed in 2013 to one of the defendants in order to “offer him a happy retirement”, she appeared at the hearing on Tuesday morning, after having traveled from Meurthe-et-Moselle, to file a written civil party application. “They fooled the owners, they fooled the consumers, they fooled everyone,” she told the AFP defendants on the eve of her hearing. Fifteen days after assigning her horse, she learned that it had been shot.