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Last Updated: Friday, 23 November 2007, 14:53 GMT
Meat worker jailed for blackmail
Leszek Burkiewiez
Burkiewiez was a supply worker who joined the firm in 2005
A worker has been jailed for four years after admitting blackmailing a Carmarthenshire meat processing plant.

While investigating Leszek Burkiewiez, 46, of Swansea, Dyfed-Powys Police made several visits to his native Poland.

Burkiewiez faked photos claiming to show unhygienic working conditions at Dawn Pac at Cross Hands, and demanded that the firm paid him 11,770.

The scam could have cost 15m as the firm considered a product recall, Swansea Crown Court was told.

Judge Christopher Morton said the plan had involved a lot of preparation and thought.

"Blackmail is a nasty offence," he said. "The economic harm that might have been caused would have been considerable."

He said he accepted that Burkiewiez, who did not speak English, would find prison very difficult.

Burkiewiez, who said he would send the photos to rivals, admitted the offence in May by sending the company an unwarranted demand for money with menaces.

John Hipkin, prosecuting, told the court Dawn Pac employed between 600 and 1,100 people depending on demand, and relied on the CSA recruitment agency to supply workers.

Burkiewiez was one of those supply workers who joined the firm in October, 2005.

He used his mobile telephone to take hundreds of images, as well as making 23 short films, which allegedly showed poor working conditions. The images, included mice and vermin poison in close proximity to meat, had been fabricated.

Dawn Pac
These types of offences though serious, are extremely rare and we are pleased that it was brought to a successful conclusion
Dyfed-Powys Police

Mr Hipkin said Dawn Pac supplied every well-known high street store and the company took its responsibilities very seriously.

The plant was described as one of Europe's leading meat processing firms which turned over 200m a year.

Retailers frequently carried out spot audits to ensure working conditions were of the highest standard.

Mr Hipkin said Burkiewiez sent the company two letters, the first demanding that Dawn Pac employ seven named individuals - including Burkiewiez himself - directly and not through the CSA agency, and to pay them 170 in cash.

Burkiewiez denied a charge of blackmail in relation to that letter and the plea was accepted by the prosecution because, explained Mr Hipkin, it was just a forerunner of a more serious demand.

The second letter was accompanied by photos and a threat that the material would be sent to rival firms if Dawn Pac did not hand over 11,770.

The firm contacted the police and Burkiewiez, who had travelled to Poland for a short break, was arrested on his return.

Complex inquiry

Pc Emyr Griffiths searched his rucksack and found a mobile telephone memory card with 819 images and 23 short films, all apparently taken inside the Dawn Pac premises.

The images were timed and an examination of Burkiewiez's swipe card used to enter the plant showed he was at work when each was taken.

Some showed the photographer's shoes and identical pairs were found in Burkiewiez's possession.

Burkiewiez's barrister, Ian Wright, agreed the photographs had been "staged", and said his client, a father-of-three, was in financial difficulties.

Welcoming the sentence, Dyfed-Powys Police called it a "complex inquiry which had an international aspect to it".

Officers, made a number of visits to Poland "where they worked closely with the Polish authorities and international liaison officers," as well as Dawn Pac, the local council, Food Standards Agency and other agencies.

"These types of offences though serious, are extremely rare and we are pleased that it was brought to a successful conclusion."

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