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2 firms at center of horsemeat scandal deny fraud

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Friday, February 15, 2013 - 7:32 am

PARIS – Two meat vendors at the heart of a growing European uproar over horsemeat labeled as beef and hidden in frozen meals have denied any fraud, with one French wholesaler saying Friday he has proof that his company is innocent.

Barthelemy Aguerre, chief of the French wholesaler Spanghero, told RTL radio that his company in southern France did receive a lot of horsemeat along with beef in its shipments "and we didn’t touch" it. He did not provide details or specify whether he reported the horsemeat delivery, saying only, "I will prove my innocence."

French Consumer Affairs Minister Benoit Hamon said Thursday that it appeared fraudulent meat sales reached across 13 countries and 28 companies.

Europol, the European Union police agency, is coordinating a continentwide fraud investigation amid allegations of an international criminal conspiracy to substitute horse for more expensive beef.

Police in the U.K. on Thursday announced the arrests of three men on suspicion of fraud at two meat plants inspected earlier this week by the country’s Food Standards Agency.

The escalating horsemeat scandal has raised questions about food controls in the 27-nation European Union.