9 Jun 2023

Multimillion-dollar fake fat export fraud alleged

7:11 am on 9 June 2023
Detail of the wall behind the judge in a court room at the Manukau District Court.

The charges against companies and individuals allege a scheme of artificially enhancing the quality of export fat and meat and bone meal by illicitly adding unapproved ingredients. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Eight companies are charged with unlawfully making and exporting an estimated $29 million worth of tainted fat and meat and bone meal.

Two individual company directors and two employees also face prosecution under the Animal Products Act and Crimes Act, following an investigation by the Ministry of Primary Industries.

The companies charged are Wallace Proteins, Taranaki By-Products, Glenninburg Holdings, SBT Group, Brett Marsh Transport, GrainCorp Commodity Management, GrainCorp Liquid Terminals.

A further company and some of its directors are also facing charges but cannot be named for legal reasons.

New Plymouth businessman Glenn Raymond Smith, 54, a director of Glenninburg Holdings, SBT Group and Taranaki By-Products, faces a total of 14 charges. Auckland businessman Stephen Eric Dahlenburg, 56, a director of Wallace Proteins, Glenninburg Holdings, faces 10 charges. Former Taranaki By-Products plant manager, Paul Alfred Drake, 59, faces two charges and former Wallace Proteins manager Curtis Webber faces two charges.

The maximum penalty for some of the charges is five years imprisonment and a $100,000 fine.

The meat rendering business takes waste products from abattoirs and breaks down the animal tissues into fat and proteins using heat or pressure. Tallow and meat and bone meal are two products generated from this process. Tallow and meat and bone meal are often used in animal feeds, fertiliser or as renewable energy sources.

Exports are highly regulated and manufacturers must adhere to MPI-approved plans detailing the types of animals being processed and all inputs into a final product. Export certificates must also specify the exact ingredients in each product.

The companies face a raft of charges including knowingly mixing unapproved ingredients, such as used cooking oil or chicken fat, into its products to improve the quality; and falsifying or applying misleading export and traceability certificates in order to sell more than 20,000 tonnes of tainted tallow and 16,400 tonnes of adulterated bone meal overseas between March 2019 and August 2020 with New Zealand official assurance, when it was not eligible for such assurance.

Appearing in Pukekohe District Court on Wednesday, all defendants entered not guilty pleas and elected a judge alone trial.

Despite agreeing there was a "minor" flight risk, Judge Yelena Yelavich granted bail to all individual defendants on the condition they reside at their usual residences, citing the seriousness of the charges.

The defendants will next appear on 30 June.

More than 140,000 tonnes of meat and bone meal and tallow worth a total of $436 million were exported from New Zealand in 2021/2022. Singapore and China were New Zealand's top two fat export markets.