Director sentenced over £200,000 fish fraud

  • Published

A company director caught fraudulently obtaining more than £200,000 by producing fake labels so he could sell products abroad has been ordered to carry out unpaid work.

Sea-Pac owner Alistair Thompson, 70, from Lonmay, Aberdeenshire, admitted fraud at Aberdeen Sheriff Court.

He arranged for Shetland Products and Fraserburgh Freezing and Cold Storage labels to go on salmon.

Sea-Pac has since gone into liquidation.

It is believed to be one of the most significant food crime cases in Scotland.

Approved for exporting

Sheriff Andrew Miller imposed a community payback order and told Thompson to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work in the community.

The Crown is now pursuing a Proceeds of Crime case, which is due to be heard at the same court on 21 September.

The court heard how Thompson fraudulently used the labels from the two other companies which had been approved for exporting to Russia, Lithuania and Estonia.

The case was brought to court following a four-year investigation led by Aberdeen City Council.

Defence lawyer Derick Nelson said his client had arranged to have shipments forwarded with labels on them which did not reflect the true nature of the goods, adding that the system of regulation was "very complex".

'Vitally important'

The lawyer said he was not seeking to minimise his client's actions.

Thompson was ordered to carry out the maximum number of unpaid hours of work in the community that the court could impose as an alternative to being imprisoned.

Aberdeen City Council commercial team manager Andrew Morrison said: "The actions of Sea-Pac Ltd in disguising the traceability of the fishery products by fraudulently changing labels and documentation had the potential to detrimentally impact on food safety of consumers as effective traceability is an essential part of the food safety requirements.

"It is vitally important that products can be rapidly traced if there is a problem and then removed from the food chain in order to protect public health.

A spokesman for Food Standards Scotland said: "This is an incident of food fraud by individuals which has seen those involved brought to justice: it is neither a widespread issue nor representative of the salmon industry in Scotland.

"Food Standards Scotland will continue to support honest, legitimate businesses and help protect them from being tarnished by the illegal activities of a very small minority."