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Canadian horse meat involved in European meat scandal

A 320g size box of Findus brand beef lasagne is seen after its purchase from an independent food store in Nunhead, southeast London February 8, 2013. Food manufacturer Findus confirmed on February 7 that results of tests carried out by Britain's Food Standards Agency that showed that the company's beef lasagne contained horse meat.

CHRIS HELGREN/REUTERS

A new Canadian link has been established in Europe's horse-meat scandal.

Tons of low-grade Canadian horse meat were purchased and passed off as halal beef by the Dutch businessman who is now in custody as French authorities investigate the scandal in which horse meat from Romania wound up labelled as ground beef.

Jan Fasen, 64, is the meat trader behind the Cyprus-registered brokerage Draap Trading, the firm at the centre of Europe's Horsegate controversy, where horse meat from Romania was passed off as ground beef in prepared frozen dishes such as lasagna.

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Last year, French consumers affairs minister Benoît Hamon confirmed that government inspectors were investigating the links between Draap and the French food processor Spanghero.

According to Agence France-Presse, Mr. Fasen was placed in custody on April 8 and is being formally investigated for fraud.

Mr. Fasen's lawyer, Jérôme Triomphe, told AFP that his client voluntarily turned up for questioning and added that he denied the charges.

According to a 2012 decision by a court in Breda, in the Netherlands, Mr. Fasen was involved in a previous case of meat-labelling fraud.

Previous media coverage of that Breda judgment mentioned that the horse meat came from Mexico and Brazil, but didn't detail that part of the bogus beef came from Canada.

The ruling does not identify the defendant but a Dutch official confirmed to The Globe and Mail that it was one of Mr. Fasen's companies, Fasen Meat Trading.

On Oct. 26, 2007, Fasen Meat Trading purchased 26 tons of frozen Canadian horse meat, the ruling said.

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A few days later, the court decision said, Fasen Meat Trading delivered to a French food company in Normandy 22 tons of what it labelled as halal beef.

In fact, about half of that shipment was frozen Canadian horse meat, according to the ruling.

In August of 2008, Fasen Meat Trading sold nearly 24 tons of halal beef to a French manufacturer but, the ruling said, part of it again came from a batch of low-grade Canadian horse meat.

"The court takes these allegations very seriously," the judgment said, adding that the defendant deceived consumers "for a long period, in an organized, crafty manner."

While the ruling was supposed to have redacted out the name of the Canadian company, one paragraph was mistakenly left, saying that the meat's origin was "Canada Naturel VF Inc. Est. 519."

Establishment 519 was the the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's identifier for a processing plant located in Wolseley, Sask., belonging to Natural Valley Farms Inc.

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NVF was a meat packer headquartered in Neudorf, Sask.

It was initially licensed in June, 2006, as a cattle abattoir but the following year it obtained a licence for slaughtering horses.

According to the Dutch court judgment, Fasen Meat Trading was dissolved in December of 2008. Earlier that year, Draap Trading was incorporated in Cyprus.

Mr. Fasen appealed the Breda court decision, which imposed a one-year sentence on him.

In May of 2013, an appellate court reduced the penalty to a €50,000 ($75,000) fine and a six-month suspended sentence.

In Canada, the NVF was facing troubles, too.

The CFIA suspended the company's licence in December, 2008, because of "ineffective implementation of food safety monitoring and verification systems."

After leasing its slaughterhouse to Cavel, NVF eventually shut down.

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About the Author
National reporter

Tu Thanh Ha is based in Toronto and writes frequently about judicial, political and security issues. He spent 12 years as a correspondent for the Globe and Mail in Montreal, reporting on Quebec politics, organized crime, terror suspects, space flights and native issues. More

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