Court told major cattle exporter put Ireland’s reputation at risk by faking disease test results

Cork man warned he faces four years in jail if he does not pay €100,000 fine

One of the Republic's biggest cattle exporters put Ireland's reputation as a quality beef producer at risk by forging test results to show animals were clear of disease when exporting them to Morocco, a judge has observed.

Judge David Riordan said greed was behind the actions of David Hunter (61) from Castlekevin, Mallow, Co Cork, after he pleaded guilty to two sample counts of presenting animals with fake certificates of disease free status for export in April and June 2011. "It is hugely regrettable that after the efforts made by the Irish authorities to open up this market that the likes of Mr Hunter would put those markets in jeopardy. They do create a difficulty and affect the national economy," the judge added.

Judge Riordan said that he would impose a four-year jail sentence on the father of five if he did not pay a €50,000 fine by December 1st, 2015, and another €50,000 fine by December 1st, 2016. He adjourned the matter until December 2nd, 2015.

Garda Sgt Shane Davern told Cork Circuit Criminal Court that Hunter and a co-accused, Joan Stafford (47), Killavullen, Co Cork, were both involved in the fraud to present diseased animals as disease-free and fit for export to Morocco in April and June 2011.


Garda Sgt Davern said Ireland had resumed live beef exports to Morocco in 2010 after a 15-year lapse but the Moroccan authorities required tests be done to show that the Irish animals were free of both infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) and bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD).

Exporters such as Hunter, who in 2010 shipped 40,000 of the 400,000 live cattle exported from Ireland, would have to get their animals tested privately to show they were disease-free and use the test results to get clearance certificates from the Department of Agriculture.

However in August 2011, the Morrocan authorities discovered that 12 animals among 120 cattle shipped by Hunter that had been certified as healthy were infected with IBR and BVD and the department began an investigation.

Department of Agriculture vet Mary Cullinane began examining the documentation at Hunter's export facility at Cornhill in Fermoy and immediately spotted anomalies in the paperwork. With colleagues Richard Hennessy and John McConville, they began an full investigation.

Garda Sgt Davern said the fraud involved three aspects and began with Hunter taking blood samples from animals with specific tag numbers. If the tests came back positive for IBR or BVR, he would simply send a sample from another animal until he got a negative result.

He used the falsified tests to obtain false certificates of clearance from the Department of Agriculture for the submitted tag numbers before he forged tag numbers to match the results for animals that tested positive so that he could claim those animals had not been exported.

The third element of the fraud which developed over time involve Stafford simply changing the test results on an unsecured spread sheet sent by the laboratory to Hunter and Hunter then submitting the altered spread sheet results as proof that the animals had tested negative.

Garda Sgt Davern said Stafford, who pleaded guilty to two counts of falsifying lists of cattle tag numbers to allow Hunter to claim they were disease-free, had said she had been “brow-beaten” by Hunter, for whom she had worked for more than 20 years, into falsifying the lists.

Imposing a 2½-year suspended sentence and a 240-hour community service order on Stafford for the two charges, Judge Riordan said the offences by both accused were highly serious offences which could have caused huge damage to the Irish beef industry.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times