Owners of restaurants, takeaways and shops across Leicestershire and beyond unwittingly bought tonnes of low-cost turkey that was being passed off to them as more expensive lamb off the bone, it was claimed.
The alleged con-trick was said to have netted meat wholesaler Dutch Bangla Direct Ltd at least a quarter of a million pounds in profit.
The alleged fraud came to light during an investigation into the then recent national horse meat scandal. Food tests discovered turkey DNA in dishes that were supposed
to be lamb.
Rohman, Peterborough, Mohammed Anwarul Hoque and his son, Mohammed Zunaid Hoque, Oadby, and Kamal Rahman, Peterborough, all deny the conspiracy.
Kevin Barry, prosecuting on behalf of trading standards, said: “It’s alleged these four defendants conspired together to commit fraud in relation to the dishonest supply of turkey meat which they pretended was lamb.
“They were supplying shops and restaurants in the East Midlands and beyond.
“The operation was on a grand scale, involving 100 tonnes of turkey.
“The cost of turkey is very much lower (than lamb), and profits generated from deceiving customers was in the hundreds of thousands of pounds.
“Apart from the main conspiracy, they are accused of further offences linked to the conspiracy to defraud.
“Documents were forged and there was an attempt to pervert the course of justice (allegedly by Rahman) by getting a witness to lie to the authorities.
“There was also the mis-describing and mis-labelling of food.”
He said Rohman was the sole director of Peterborough-based Dutch Bangla Direct Ltd, which “was the front or conduit to carry out their fraudulent activity”.
“Rohman placed substantial orders with European suppliers of turkey meat, but sent it out as lamb, sometimes with false labels.
“He would often use the three co-defendants as salesmen and deliverymen.
“Mohammed Anwarul Hoque is Leicester-based, with a history of involvement in the restaurant business, who was the key sales and delivery manager for Dutch Bangla.
“He had considerable face-to-face contact with customers and received thousands of pounds from Dutch Bangla.
“His son, Mr Hoque junior, assisted his father in establishing customers and supplying them with meat, and he lent himself to the fraud, knowingly selling turkey as lamb.
“Kamal Rahman, formerly Kamal Uddin, was a well-established and successful businessman in the East Midlands and a prominent member of the Bangladeshi community.”
Mr Barry claimed Rahman offered a restaurant owner money to lie to trading standards about the source of suspect meat “to corrupt the investigation into the scam to supply turkey labelled as boneless leg of lamb”.
Between October 2012 and November 2014, the company allegedly imported 116 tonnes of turkey, mainly from Germany, paying between £1 and £1.50 per kilo, which was sold on as lamb for between £4.75 and £7 a kilo.
Mr Barry said: “The estimated turnover was between £500,000 to £800,000 generated by selling turkey as lamb – and more than half of that would have been profit to Dutch Bangla.
“Turkey meat at wholesale level commands much lower prices, and by selling turkey as lamb the defendants were able to charge around double of what it was actually worth – and they were still able to undercut rivals’ prices for lamb, so it looked more attractive to the customer.
“It wasn’t halal certified and the (European) suppliers to Dutch Bangla didn’t claim it to be halal certified.”
Mr Barry said forged certificates were seized which wrongly claimed that Dutch Bangla was certified to handle halal meat.
He added: “They were plainly being created to fraudulently induce customers to believe it was a certified halal business when it wasn’t.”
As well as the conspiracy allegation, all four deny selling food which was not the substance demanded by the customer and selling food labelled with a false description.
Rahman also denies intending to pervert the course of justice.
Rohman, Hoque and Hoque deny five counts of Food Safety Act breaches.
Rohman denies forgery, possessing an article for use in fraud, selling food with a false description, failing to have in place adequate systems and procedures to provide food traceability to the authorities and failing to notify the authorities of premises where food production, processing or distribution was taking place.
Hoque senior denies possessing a false halal certificate for the use of fraud.
The trial continues……..