A MAN has been jailed and two others handed suspended prison sentences after more than 200,000kg of chicken was illegally transferred out of an Anglesey factory.

Caernarfon Crown Court heard that, between 2019 and 2021, oyster-cut chicken thighs were secretly delivered from 2 Sisters Food Group’s Llangefni base to Townsend Poultry in Wolverhampton.

During today’s (February 2) hearing, the following sentences were issued:

  • Rana Dhaia, 57, of Ambergate Road, Wolverhampton, was sentenced to four years and three months’ imprisonment.
  • Darren Williams, 47, of Y Garth, Llanerchymedd, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for the same time period, and 300 hours’ unpaid work.
  • Elliot Smith, 32, of Rhos y Gear Avenue, Holyhead, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for the same time period, and 250 hours’ unpaid work.

Williams and Smith both admitted charges of fraud by abuse of position, while Williams had also previously pleaded guilty to transferring criminal property.

Dhaia was found guilty after trial of acquiring criminal property, meanwhile.

Prosecuting, Richard Edwards told the court that, in September 2020, Lucy Brew, 2 Sisters’ director of internal audit, received information regarding working practices at the business’ Llangefni site and poultry being stolen.

Williams and Smith were identified as having arranged for the chicken to be supplied to Townsend Poultry, a business which was being run by Dhaia.

Ms Brew commenced an audit, but found no formal business records of any deliveries to Townsend Poultry, because Williams and/or Smith had destroyed any trace of them.

Enquiries were made with hauliers used by 2 Sisters, which resulted in documentation showing 84 different deliveries of oyster-cut chicken thighs between February 2019 and June 2021.

Williams and Smith were arrested, the former later providing evidence at Dhaia’s trial.

Both had management roles at the Llangefni site at the time of the offending, with Williams having been contacted by Dhaia about wanting chicken breast fillets supplied at a cost below market value.

Dhaia agreed to pay about £650 per pallet directly to the bank account of Williams, who was said to be in a “bad place financially” and who “saw an opportunity to make money”.

From the documentation recovered, some 209,245kg of chicken had been delivered from 2 Sisters to Dhaia.

It is estimated that 2 Sisters – which shut its Llangefni site last year – could have received roughly £300,000 for these deliveries if they were carried out legitimately.

Bank records showed that, from February 2019 to July 2021, Dhaia sent £259,290 to Williams’ bank account across 140 transfers.

Smith, when interviewed, confirmed he would also receive cash payments from Williams for his assistance in the operation.

Between March 2019 and December 2020, Williams paid Smith £21,932.21.

When interviewed, Dhaia said he thought Williams was a “broker”.

Smith, meanwhile, said he was approached by Williams, who asked him if he wanted to earn some extra money, and would receive payment by either bank transfer or cash in hand.

Defending Dhaia, whose only previous convictions were for motoring matters some time ago, Simon Mintz said he ran Townsend Poultry, an “honest business”, for 13 years.

Owing largely to business pressures, though, his company has now been dissolved.

Dhaia “worked hard to build up a business, and a life for his family, in the West Midlands,” Mr Mintz said.

Representing Williams, who also had only been previously convicted for motoring matters, in 1996, Ember-Jade Wong said he is remorseful, is prepared to make reparations, and can be rehabilitated.

“How can a defendant demonstrate remorse more than assisting the prosecution in their case?”, she asked.

Williams had “worked incredibly hard for all of his adult life,” Ms Wong added.

Mitigating for Smith, who had no previous convictions, Elen Owen said he “fell into the temptation of what was clearly easy money”.

Ms Owen said Smith, who is in poor health and has a young child with additional needs, “wanted to provide a better life for wife and children, rather than fund any sort of extravagant lifestyle”.

He has since gained work with new employers who are aware of his offending, but who still hold him in “very great regard”.

Sentencing, Recorder Benjamin Blakemore told the defendants: “This was an operation with a degree of sophistication to it.

“It went unnoticed for quite some time.”

He told Smith and Williams that they had “come within a whisper” of immediate custody.

Following sentencing, Emmalyne Downing, Crown Advocate, said: “The three defendants took advantage of their position within the companies to defraud 2 Sisters Food Group.

"Fraud cases can be complex; the Crown Prosecution Service worked closely with the Economic Crime Unit at North Wales Police and the Food Standards Agency in Wales to build a strong case against the defendants.

"The evidence presented resulted in all three being convicted”.

Detective Constable David Hall, of the North Wales Police Economic Crime Unit, said: “We welcome today’s outcome which has seen the conviction of Williams, Smith and Dhaia following work with partners from the Food Standard Agency.

“The offences that took place not only cost the 2 Sisters Food Group thousands of pounds, but also could have had far-reaching implications due to traceability issues if they had not been caught.

“I’d like to thank the CPS for their involvement in this investigation which has led to today’s result.”

Andrew Quinn, head of the Food Standards Agency’s National Food Crime Unit (NFCU), said: "We welcome these custodial sentences, as this sends a strong deterrent message to those considering committing food crimes.

"I want to thank the CPS and North Wales Police for their excellent work in securing these convictions.

"Together, we are stronger in the fight against food fraud and we continue to work with partners to help ensure that consumers are protected.

"Anyone with suspicions of food crime can report it safely and confidentially to the NFCU.

"You can report a food crime online or by freephone on 0800 028 1180. For non-UK mobiles or calls from overseas, please use 0207 276 8787.”