Garda to seek prosecutions in pig-feed investigation

Sat, Mar 6, 2010, 00:00

A CRIMINAL investigation involving the Garda and other authorities into the animal feed dioxin contamination which led to the recall of all Irish pork products in December 2008 at a cost of more than €180 million is almost complete, with a file likely to be sent to the DPP within months, the High Court has heard.

The file is expected to contain recommendations for prosecutions, Mr Justice Peter Charleton was told yesterday by lawyers for the Garda who are resisting an application to hand over documents in the investigation file.

The judge will rule on Tuesday on that application, brought by Millstream Recycling Ltd, which claims it was supplied with defective oil by others which in turn contaminated its animal feed product.

Millstream, Clohamon Mills, Bunclody, Co Wexford, believes there is a bona fide case that other parties availed of “a loophole” in Irish law to supply it with oil which, under the terms of an EU directive, would have had to be incinerated in the UK, said Randal Hill, for MRL, yesterday.

Millstream believed the oil supplied to it was a combination of black sump oil, which under UK law must be incinerated, and other oil, counsel said.

His client was seeking various documents from the Garda investigation, including documents related to how oil was sourced and from whom, plus scientific analysis of the oil as it passed through various locations. His side was also seeking statements taken by the Garda from various people.

Opposing that application, counsel said this was a very complex and wide-ranging criminal investigation, which was almost but not complete. The Garda was still awaiting results of tests on the oil from the UK and Hamburg, she said.

The Garda is concerned that any handover of material could present an incomplete and inaccurate picture and could prejudice the investigation and interview of a vital party, she added.

The Garda had sought to interview a company in Northern Ireland, O’Neill Fuels Ltd, which had only recently indicated it would accede to the interview request, she said. That interview had not yet been conducted.

Because the investigation was multi-jurisdictional, the Garda had given assurances that any material supplied to it from outside the jurisdiction would only be used for the purpose of its investigation.

In its proceedings, to be heard later this year, Millstream has alleged businessman Gerard Tierney, Newtown Park Avenue, Blackrock, Co Dublin, and his company, Newtown Lodge Ltd, Fairview, Dublin, supplied it with defective oil. It is claiming €36 million in loss and damages.

The defendants have denied the claims and Mr Tierney has applied to have the case against him personally dismissed and for security for costs of the action, which the court heard would be some €1.5 million. The judge will also decide those applications on Tuesday.

The defendants deny the oil supplied to Millstream was defective. Alternatively, if the oil was contaminated, Mr Tierney and Newtown claim that is no fault of theirs as, they allege, the oil was supplied by another company, O’Neill Fuels Ltd, Annaghmore Hill, Coalisland, Co Tyrone, which has been joined to the case as a third party.

The contamination in 2008 resulted in a recall of all Irish pork products after pig meat on several farms was found to have between 80 and 200 times more dioxins than the recognised safety limit. Many animals were slaughtered and compensation costs for Ireland alone are estimated at more than €180 million.