“Before all these laws, it was much simpler”, plague the main defendant of the horsemeat scam trial

“Before all these laws, it was much simpler”, plague the main defendant of the horsemeat scam trial

The sentence is released at the very beginning of the hearing, with this slight Belgian accent which reminds us that Jean-Marc Decker is from the flat country, more precisely from Bastogne. “Before 2009-2010, it was much easier, plague in his blue polka dot shirt this important horse trader. There was no need for paper. We sent the drawing of the horse and a stamp on an A4 sheet, and we had a lot less to worry about. »

Worries, since, Jean-Marc Decker has a little, it is true. Since the beginning of June, the trader has been appearing before the Marseille criminal court. He is suspected of having been the backbone of a vast traffic in horses unfit for consumption. The 58-year-old Belgian is appearing in particular for deception on goods endangering humans or animals and fraud in an organized gang.

Nearly 400 “non-compliant” horses

Between 2010 and 2015, Jean-Marc Decker would have sold between 2,500 and 4,000 horses per year, 70% of which were destined for the horse industry. Each horse then brought him between 50 and 75 euros. But, according to investigators, more than 400 “non-compliant” horses were killed at the municipal slaughterhouse in Alès, Jean-Marc Decker’s biggest customer.

It was from this slaughterhouse that the Belgian and French investigators began their investigations in 2013 on the basis of a report from the national brigade for veterinary and phytosanitary investigations. The veterinary services had uncovered a series of frauds based on the falsification of identification books and health documents accompanying the animals as well as breaches of European regulations concerning horses imported from countries of the Union.

“I was not careful”

The traceability of the past and the drug treatments of certain animals was largely blurred, making it impossible to verify their eligibility for slaughter intended for butchers. The investigation identified more than 150 horse owners who were victims of this scam, of which around fifty filed civil suits.

“I have never falsified a passport, claims Jean-Marc Decker at the helm. I had no bad intentions. “And to repeat:” With all the laws that have changed, I believe that with hindsight … I recognize that I was not vigilant. The man who trained as a baker joined the family business after his studies, consisting of a horse butcher and a horse trading company, first in Belgium. On the death of his father in the 1980s, Jean-Marc Decker sold the butcher’s shop to devote himself mainly to the horse trade, and this now throughout Europe.

“Not concrete things”

However, by his own admission, during all his years Jean-Marc Decker paid very little attention to the laws surrounding this trade. “How did you keep up to date with the various regulations in progress”, questions the president of the criminal court of Marseille, Céline Ballérini. “We had snippets from the federal agency for the safety of the food chain, not concrete things, recognizes Jean-Marc Decker. Sometimes, the veterinarian told us: “Hey, from the 1st, there’s something that changes”. »

With horses, the baker’s apprentice sometimes also turned out to be an apprentice veterinarian, administering medicine to his animals himself, without a specialist having seen the animal to establish a diagnosis. I am able to know what horses need”, explains the one who defines himself as “born in horses”. Practices that are not without consequence on the animal and human health once consumed.

“I regret a lot, says Jean-Marc Decker. Since that story, I no longer ride meat horses. I only ride horses, club horses. Trouble, I don’t want it anymore. The trial is scheduled to last until Friday, June 24

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