30 June 2000

Five-year jail term for BSE scam farmer

AN Irish farmer who deliberately imported a BSE-infected animal from Northern Ireland so he could claim IR£75,000 in compensation for the slaughter of his entire herd has been jailed for five years.

The farmer, James Sutton, from Clonakilty in west Cork, was jailed last Friday for an offence committed in 1996. He had hoped to qualify for compensation under the Irish BSE policy of slaughtering the whole herd where one animal is found to be infected. The government pays current market prices for each animal.

At Cork Circuit Criminal Court, he admitted conspiring with others to defraud the Agri-culture Department of IR£75,000.

Before bringing in the infected animal, he had doubled the size of his herd to more than 140 cattle, to maximise the expected payment.

The scam was uncovered when the imported animal, which he had attempted to pass off as having been born on the farm, was found to have been given a new ear-tag, though it was said to be five years old. Its identification papers also showed it had a full set of horns, while the imported animal had no horns.

According to Garda Superintendent Aidan Reid, "cattle dealers and others" had also taken part in the conspiracy. Since his arrest Mr Sutton has travelled to markets to help identify others involved and more prosecutions are expected to follow. &#42