Many of Britain’s biggest retailers were forced to pull products from their shelves yesterday as their suppliers were found to be selling beefburgers laced with horse meat.
Tesco’s were found to contain up to 29 per cent equine DNA, while Asda, Sainsbury’s and the Co-op all withdrew frozen burgers as a ‘precautionary measure’.Today the Mail reveals that a multi-millionaire beef supplier dubbed ‘Dirty Larry’ is behind the company that supplied British supermarkets with contaminated food.Larry Goodman, 76, is a director of the ABP Food Group which owns the meat processors Silvercrest Foods in Dublin and Dalepak Foods in Hambleton, North Yorkshire.
His family owns a sprawling country home on a 700-acre estate in County Louth, Ireland and property around Europe including a share in the London headquarters of Goldman Sachs.But in Ireland, the Goodman name is synonymous with financial malpractice after he dragged the country’s beef industry through the dirt in the 1990s after details of his business links with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq were exposed.Bentley-driving Mr Goodman, an intensely private man, started out as a 15-year-old school drop-out selling sheep guts to butchers in Dundalk, Ireland for use as sausage skin.
He made his first fortune after he founded Anglo Irish Beef Processors in 1962 and started selling beef to Muslim countries including Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.But United Nations sanctions imposed on Iraq after Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990 led Iraq to default on millions of pounds of payments to Goodman’s company.By August 1990 Goodman had accumulated almost £550million in debts and an emergency session of Ireland’s parliament the Dail was called with politicians thinking one of the country’s most successful businessmen was in crisis.
Eventually the banks took a 60 per cent stake in the business and Goodman – a lifetime teetotaller – was allowed to cling on to the rest. But an investigation by Granada TV journalist Susan O’Keefe, now an Irish Labour senator, subsequently revealed serious financial malpractice involving the Goodman International group.
That then led to a judicial tribunal in Ireland, known as the Beef Tribunal, which shone a light on the relationship between Goodman and Ireland’s then Taoiseach Charles Haughey.It was during this hearing that Goodman – one of Ireland’s richest men with a fortune believed to be worth around £600million – became dubbed ‘Dirty Larry’ by the Irish media.It emerged that after winning an election in 1987 Haughey had agreed to underwrite a multi-million pound beef contract Goodman had secured with Iraq.
The agreement meant the Irish government had effectively provided Goodman with an insurance that meant the taxpayer would foot the bill if Iraq reneged on its payments.At the time Iraq was embroiled in a bitter war with its neighbour Iran. The policy was later cancelled. Despite the findings of the tribunal Goodman was never charged with any wrongdoing.Less than five years after he was bailed out Goodman was able to buy his business back from the banks for £30million.
The beef baron’s processing company, Irish Food Processors, has not published accounts since 2001 when it recorded a turnover of £720million. His companies now have contracts with fast food chains and supermarkets including Tesco, Burger King, Asda and Sainsbury’s.Now the company is under investigation again by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland amid suspicions that it may have received contaminated meat from unchecked sources.Silvercrest Foods yesterday said it was withdrawing 10million beef patties from stores across Ireland and the United Kingdom.
The ABP Food Group yesterday said it had despatched its own auditors to two of its suppliers to conduct spot checks on their products.In a statement it said: ‘We take this matter extremely seriously and apologise for the understandable concern this issue has caused.‘ABP Food Group companies have never knowingly bought, handled or supplied equine meat products and we acknowledge the understandable concern created as a result of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s DNA frozen beef burger test results.’
It also said it was introducing a new testing regime for its meat products which will include DNA analysis.In the Irish parliament yesterday Sinn Féin agriculture spokesman Martin Ferris demanded to know the names of the companies in Spain and the Netherlands which are believed to have supplied contaminated products.The Irish minister for agriculture Simon Coveney said any companies involved in the production of beef burgers containing horse meat would be named.He said: ‘If there are inappropriate linkages here, we will highlight those.’A spokesman for Mr Goodman said he would not be making a personal statement on the horse meat issue.