Everyone’s got a camera: Fake food poisoning Gangnam Style

Dancing Gangnam Style by the side of a swimming pool in Cyprus, Liam Royle appears full of life.

Yet according to him, he was suffering from food poisoning he had developed while on his holiday – experiencing stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.

The 23-year-old made a fraudulent sickness claim against Jet2holidays, stating that he suffered from “personal injury” and a “loss of enjoyment” while staying at Papantonia Hotel Apartments, and also “missed meals, excursions, swimming time and other general activities”.

However, when Royle’s former girlfriend became aware of his dishonesty, she contacted the company with a rather incriminating dossier which showed that instead on his holiday, Royle visited the nearby town of Ayia Napa, where he walked around the shops and ate a McDonalds, did not miss meals, drank beer and cocktails, swam in the pool, and was even filmed dancing Gangnam Style.

Instead, the woman who wishes to remain anonymous continued, the 2015 holiday was “fabulous”.

In light of the evidence, Jet2holidays challenged the Manchester man’s claim, and a district judge ruled that he was “fundamentally dishonest” and ordered he pay the company more than £6,000 in costs.

Food fraud: Over 3600 tonnes of dangerous food removed from EU market

Trafficking in fake and substandard food is big business, and efforts to stop this global phenomenon are ongoing

Rotten meat, chemically coloured tuna and fake baby milk powder – these are just a small sampling of the products seized as part of the latest OPSON investigation into the presence of counterfeit and substandard food and beverage products on the market in Europe and beyond.

Run over the course of 4 months (December 2017 – March 2018) across 67 countries*, OPSON VII resulted in the total seizure of more than 3 620 tonnes and 9.7 million litres of either counterfeit or substandard food and beverages as a results of more than 41 000 checks carried out at shops, markets, airports, seaports and industrial estates. In total some 749 people were arrested or detained with investigations continuing in many countries.

“The results of OPSON demonstrate what can be achieved to protect consumers worldwide when law enforcement agencies join their efforts and perform coordinated actions”, said Jari Liukku, Head of Europol’s European Serious and Organised Crime Centre, “It is a threat which requires such cooperation across borders, taking into account the increased integration and globalisation of supply chains. All countries face this threat and it is the duty of law enforcement agencies to make sure what consumers get in their plate is genuine and safe”.

“The dismantling of nearly 50 criminal networks involved in the production of fake food and drink is an important result in stemming the flow of potentially lethal products into the marketplace,” said Daoming Zhang, Head of INTERPOL’s Illicit Markets unit. “The volume of counterfeit and substandard products seized is a reminder to the public that they need to remain careful about what they buy and from where.”

The annual operation coordinated by Europol and INTERPOL is supported by customs, police and national food regulatory bodies in addition to partners from the private sector. Since its first edition in 2011, the number of countries taking part in OPSON has grown every year, reflecting the growing commitment to tackle this issue.

In Europe the close cooperation established between Europol and the EU Commission coordinating the EU Food Fraud Network led to the implementation of a specific project targeting the fraudulent trade of tuna. A comprehensive approach involving all stakeholders allowed the phenomenon to be tackled in an innovative and more effective manner via the simultaneous use of administrative and criminal enforcement tools. Europol will continue to support this multiagency approach in the upcoming editions of OPSON.

Belgium – sale of rotten meat unfit for consumption

Belgium closed a major meat processing plant in the country, and supermarkets have taken meat products off their shelves in a scandal over rotten meat. The incriminated company saw its licence revoked by the federal government, after spot checks revealed a potential health risk in two products: minced beef and oxtail. Officials found traces of so-called meat waste, pieces of the carcass, intended for animal feed which are prohibited for human consumption.

Spain – fake baby milk powder

Four people have been arrested and a factory that packaged counterfeit baby milk mostly destined for China dismantled in Spain. Eight tonnes of the forged product were seized. The powder bought in bulk in Poland for one euro per kilo and delivered to Barcelona was not harmful but it lacked the nutrients needed by infants. It was also made in an environment that did not comply with food health and safety standards.

European wide-action – fraudulent practices in the tuna fish industry

During OPSON VII, an EU coordinated action was run with the support of the EU Food Fraud Network across 11 European countries** in order to detected fraudulent practices pertaining to tuna fish. This was the first time that such an action was carried out on a specific product. The illicit practises included species substitution and fraudulently selling tuna intended for canning as fresh. In this case, the tuna intended for canning was illegally treated with chemical substances that altered its colour to give the misleading impression of its freshness. In total, more than 51 tonnes of tuna were seized and more than 380 samples were taken.

France- smuggling of perishable goods

In a joint operation, The French Gendarmerie, Customs, Police and Ministry of Agriculture seized in its overseas territories over 9.5 tonnes of smuggled perishable goods and 60 litres of fuel and raw material intended for illegal gold mining.

Training in the detection of food fraud

Throughout the year, representatives from a variety of agencies and sectors – police and customs officers, prosecutors, investigative experts – attend training courses and workshops in advance of the operational activity. These hands-on workshops equip participants with the knowledge they need for the raids and follow-up investigations, in particular, enabling them to better distinguish fake products from genuine ones. In Hungary, the National Tax and Customs Administration in cooperation with the National Food Chain Safety Office and the National Board Against Counterfeiting produced a short video to explain the operation to law enforcement officers and a general audience.

A final and detailed report on the results of the operation OPSON VII will be published in the upcoming months.

Stop scamming in Spain: Crackdown on British tourists’ phony food poisoning

The British Ministry of Justice has announced new rules to stop British holidaymakers in Spain from scamming tour operators with fake food poisoning claims.

Under the crackdown, a limit will be set on the legal costs that can be claimed in overseas package travel claims. This will stop claims management companies from seeking legal costs that are out of proportion to the damages sought – a loophole that has often pushed tour operators to settle out of court.

In a press release, the Ministry of Justice said the change “would mean tour operators would pay prescribed costs depending on the value of the claim and length of proceedings, making defense costs predictable and assisting tour operators to challenge bogus claims.”

According to court documents, phony food poisoning claims may have cheated Spanish hotels out of as much as €60 million since 2014. The scam took off in the summer of 2016, with one hotel chain receiving 273 claims requesting compensation for 700 people.

The scam was simple enough. The tourist buys a travel package with any travel agent and stays at a Spanish hotel that includes all meals in the price. Back in Britain after the vacation, the tourist uses a claims-management company to file a complaint against the company that organized the trip, alleging that the hotel meals made him/her ill.

Current British consumer laws barely require the claimant to produce any evidence. No doctor’s report is necessary, and claims may be filed up to three years after the event.

Since it is hard to prove that the client did not get sick, and faced with high legal fees if the case goes to court, the tour operator accepts the claim, then pass on the cost to the Spanish hotels as per their contract, in which the latter accept responsibility for all damages.

In 2017, the Spanish Civil Guard arrested seven British nationals for their involvement in the scam.

According to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), the number of claims jumped from 5,000 in 2013 to 35,000 in 2016 – an increase of 500%.

“Claiming compensation for being sick on holiday, when you haven’t been, is fraud,” said Justice Minister Rory Stewart. “This behavior also tarnishes the reputation of British people abroad. That is why we are introducing measures to crack down on those who engage in this dishonest practice.”

The Ministry of Justice says the new rules will come into effect shortly – well before summer begins.

In early April, a young couple who demanded compensation after claiming they fell ill on holidays were caught out thanks to their social media photos.

Chelsea Devine, 21, and Jamie Melling, 22, from Liverpool in the UK, went on a 10-day all-inclusive holiday to Benidorm, Spain in September 2015.

The holiday was booked with travel and tourism company TUI, and they stayed at the Levante Beach Apartments during their trip.

In May 2016, the couple both claimed they had contracted serious food poisoning from food and drinks consumed during their stay, and each demanded $4500 in compensation from TUI.

The pair claimed they were seriously ill during their holiday, and that the sickness lasted for weeks.

However, Liverpool County Court heard their social media accounts revealed a variety of happy, poolside selfies, which caused judge Sally Hatfield QC to brand them both as “fundamentally dishonest”.

They recently received a record fine of more than $27,000 for their fraudulent claim.

According to The Sun, Recorder Sally Hatfield QC said there was no evidence the pair had been ill during their trip.

In October 2017, UK couple Deborah Briton, 53, and Paul Roberts, 43, were jailed for making fake holiday sickness claims in a landmark case.

Eel smuggling ring busted in Spain

Who smuggles eels?

Baby eels, a traditional Spanish tapas. Gulas al ajillo

Maybe by friend Steve (right, not exactly as shown), but no one else I would know.

Chris Chase of Seafood Source reports that Europol and the Spanish Guardia Civil, in collaboration with Portuguese authorities, seized 350 kilograms of elvers that were about to be smuggled out of Spain during “Operation Elvers,” the three agencies announced on 6 April.  

Ten suspects were arrested – Spanish, Chinese, and Moroccan nationals – in connection with smuggling the eels. Authorities estimate the group has managed to smuggle a value of EUR 37 million (USD 45.5 million) worth of eels over the course of their operation. 

The European eel is subject to multiple EU regulations, including a blanket ban on all imports and exports and a global restriction on trade. In 2009, the species was listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora. Once it became clear that those measures weren’t enough, a ‘zero quota’ ban on all shipments to third countries was put into place.

A video released by the Spanish Guardia Civil shows authorities busting down doors in a raid on the elver smuggling facilities. Rows of tanks filled with make-shift aquaculture equipment, EUR 40,000 (USD 49,000) in cash, and stacks of travel bags used to smuggle the elvers out of the country were all found inside. According to Europol,  a total of 364 travel bags were being prepared to be sent to China, and could have been able to carry more than five tons of eels. 

The video also shows the 350 kilograms of live elvers, being released back into their natural habitat.

Belgian meat processing plant closed for food safety fraud

The Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) said on Thursday it has pre-emptively closed the Verbist Group’s meat processing plant and cold store VEVIBA in Bastogne,south Belgium, following a case of fraud on meat labels.

Meanwhile, the food safety watchdog has checked all establishments of the Verbist Group in Belgium.

Investigators found a problem in a slaughterhouse in Bastogne where some labels on frozen meat were removed and replaced by others with more recent dates.

“This can potentially be a risk, especially for people who consume raw meat, although for well-cooked meat the risk is lower,” Philippe Houdart, former spokesperson of FASFC, was quoted by local media as saying in a press release.

Two products have been identified as potentially risky for consumers: minced meat as well as cow tails sold to other companies.

Rowdy Irish mums accused of scamming Brisbane restaurants

Police suspect there are likely to be many more victims of a group of marauding mums that have reportedly gone on a scamming spree fraudulently receiving free meals, drinks and even cigarettes from restaurant and bar owners desperate to get rid of them.

The “boisterous” posse, with kids in tow, reportedly “trash” restaurants and cafes as part of the ploy to get staff, at the end of their tethers, to let them off the bill.

Benedict Brook of The Courier Mail reports in one case, they have also been accused of placing glass in a meal and then demanding a refund.

It’s thought at least six businesses in Brisbane’s CBD and nearby suburbs of Spring Hill and Fortitude Valley have been targeted by the gang, most of who are said to have an Irish accent, over the last week.

The apparent scam is just one of many that plague hospitality businesses that have to balance the needs of genuine customers against scammers wanting something for nothing.

While in Brisbane the ploy involved glass, in Adelaide hairs are often placed in food by dodgy punters. In Melbourne food allergies are part of cafe con jobs.

In an angry Facebook post on Monday, Marie Yokoyama from the Birds Nest Japanese restaurant in Fortitude Valley explained how the women had set about to get a free feed.

“They are a group of about seven — four children and three ladies — and they are unbelievably rude. They came in and totally destroyed the restaurant.

“Halfway through the meal one lady started screaming that there was glass in her meal and that her mouth was bleeding. I believed her and then asked to see the glass.

“Upon inspection I knew that this had not come from our restaurant but they were relentless.”

The restaurateur said they didn’t have any thick glass of the type produced but this didn’t placate the customers.

“I was so scared and terrified of them that I made their meals and drinks free — around $180 (in) value.”

The post said the group demanded further drinks, for free, and left their excitable children unattended while they smoked outside.

news.com.au reports today that the group of mums accused of scamming up-market restaurants and stealing from supermarkets may have also trashed four brand-new apartments in Brisbane.

Food fraud: Adulterated chili racket busted in India

A spurious chili powder racket was busted at Gollapudi in Vijayawada on Friday by officials of the Bhavanipuram police, task force, and Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

The raid was conducted on Sudha Enterprises in Bhavanipuram, where officials found huge quantities of substandard chili powder, made from crushing the stems.

According to reports, Sudha Enterprises was run by one Grandhi Narayana Rao, who procured the inferior quality chili powder for Rs 30 per kg, allegedly re-packed it, and sold it for Rs 50 to Rs 60 per kg.

The officials reportedly seized 600 kg of chili powder in the raid, along with 100 kg of salt and black gram.

“Chili powder usually is made by grinding chili and mixing it with certain ingredients. Instead, Narayana was found using cheap quality chili and chili stems, procured from Guntur, and was selling them under various brand names. He had not obtained FSSAI licence to sell the products in the market,” assistant food controller N Purnachandra Rao was quoted as saying.

In December 2016, a crackdown on adulterated chili powder by the Commissionerate of Food Safety (CFS) found a total of 3.09 tonnes or 3,000 kg of misleading or falsely-labelled product in a span of a few weeks across the state.

Officials said that it was almost impossible to tell the difference unless the product was clinically tested, as they looked exactly the same. This made it even more dangerous, as it is difficult to identify.

Australian student who sold monkey skull to ‘people from Pirates of the Caribbean’ fined

A few years ago, one of those Johnny-Depp-pirate movies — it may have been 5 — was filming down the highway at the Gold Coast.

The set was plagued by drama when it was discovered Depp and then wife Amber Heard had illegally brought two dogs into the country.

This prompted deputy premier Banaby-the-bloody-carp Joyce (right, not exactly as shown) to question Depp’s acting ability after the couple apologized, which shows how small Australia is because now Joyce is embroiled in his own scandalous activities, involving humans, not pets.

Behind the sideshow of movie making, divorce and apologies, a Canberra university student was on Thursday fined for illegally possessing and importing exotic animal remains into Australia, in a case that has shed some light on the shadowy world of wildlife trade.

Alexandra Back of the Canberra Times reports that for years, avid collector Brent Philip Counsell, 28, dealt in what a magistrate described as a “macabre” trade of skulls and animal specimens, once selling a primate skull to the people making the Pirates of the Caribbean movie in Brisbane.

In 2016 authorities from the department of environment raided Counsell’s home in Deakin where they found and seized about 100 animal specimens from the living room and bedroom.

Australian environment law makes it illegal to either possess or import protected exotic animal specimens without a permit.

Over several years, Counsell either illegally imported or possessed a small primate skull threaded on a necklace, the skulls of a brown bear and a gibbon, a taxidermy buzzard, water monitor lizard, and teeth from a bear and a hippopotamus tooth.

When he spoke to investigators, Counsell admitted possessing and selling species from his website wulfe.com.au, which he had since shut down.

One of the charges stemmed from an admission Counsell made to authorities after they had searched his home, that he had sold a primate skull to the “people” behind the Pirates of the Caribbean movie that was filming in Brisbane.

He tried to avoid detection, and prosecutors found on his phone articles that offered tips about how to send skulls overseas without being noticed by customs.

Everyone has a camera, especially for selfies: UK couple who claimed holiday was ruined by food poisoning caught out by posting snaps on Facebook

Martin Naylor of the Mirror reports a brazen couple claimed they fell in with food poisoning while on holiday – only to put up pictures of themselves having fun and eating luxury meals on social media.

Leon Roberts and Jade Muzoka pleaded guilty to fraud and have been warned by a judge that they can face jail.

The couple falsely claimed their holiday in Turkey was ruined in a scam that could have cost travel firm TUI £50,000 had they not been caught out, the Derby Telegraph reports.

But despite the pair discontinuing their story before a penny was paid out, the company chose to prosecute.

District Judge Jonathan Taaffe said: “It would fly in the face of common sense to regard this as an isolated incident.

“It is a real problem in Great Britain and has a real impact on the genuine persons who suffer that make genuine claims and put those who do suffer illness on holiday under suspicion.

“This (the offences) is outside the (sentencing) guidelines because it encourages a tsunami of false claims.

“All (sentencing) options are open at this stage and this is a serious case and it may be that a custodial sentence will follow to show the importance of your wrongdoing.”

Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court was told how Roberts, 37, of Alvaston, and Muzoka, 27, from Sinfin, spent a week at the luxury Cornelia Golf Resort and Spa, in Turkey, in July 2015.

The following April, the pair submitted claims through their solicitor saying they both fell ill during their time away.

But investigators discovered photographs of the couple, who are no longer together, lounging by the pool, drinking and eating dinner.

Food fraud: UK tourist scam version

Lucia Bohorquez of El Pais writes an investigating judge in Palma de Mallorca has lifted the seal on court records entered in the case of a scheme that may have cheated Spanish hotels out of as much as €60 million through phony food poisoning claims filed since 2014.

British law firms promised clients up to €18,000 and a 98% success rate in claims for gastric illness caused by the hotel food. The lawyers kept 60% of the payout, and the remainder was enough to cover the client’s entire holiday package costs. Clients were sent to them by a ring operating out of Mallorca, where “sales agents” were deployed to hotels in search of targets.

From January 2016 to the end of the summer, one hotel chain received 273 claims requesting compensation for 700 people

The Spanish Civil Guard arrested seven members of this ring, all British nationals, in September of last year. The suspects allegedly exploited lax British legislation by persuading hotel clients to file phony food poisoning claims against their tour operators.

Faced with high legal fees if the cases went to court, the tour operators would accept the claims, then pass on the cost to the Spanish hotels as per their contract, in which the latter accept responsibility for all damages.

The investigation was launched after several hotel groups filed police complaints. These hotels had hired private detectives who found that there was a network of agents sent out to hotels to persuade clients to file claims.

A Civil Guard report that shows up in court records mentions two individuals as the heads of the ring. These men operated out of Britain, where they channeled the claims through law firms “with low professional ethics.”

Back on Mallorca, the local leaders were two women – a mother and daughter – whose job it was to hire agents and train them to persuade hotel clients to simulate gastric illnesses. These agents were always native English speakers who dealt directly with their targets at the hotels.

Civil Guard officers followed the activities of the ring and found that it was also active on the island of Tenerife, where it made around €115 for every successful claim. One of the women would routinely drive to the hotels to supervise her agents, especially in Sa Coma and Puerto de Alcúdia in the north of Mallorca.

The ring was also active in Tenerife, where it made around €115 for every successful claim

All seven arrested ring members kept in touch through a WhatsApp group called “UK Holidays claims,” where they shared their clients’ names and addresses, contact information, holiday reservation number, checkout date and the best time to call the client back in the UK. Each agent added his or her name to the message, to ensure that they would get the commission.