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Man appears in court accused of infant formula poisoning threats

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Man appears in court accused of infant formula poisoning threats

Related tags: New zealand

After an 11-month police investigation, a man has appeared in an Auckland court charged with threats he allegedly made to poison infant formula with the controversial 1080 pesticide.

Police say the 60-year-old businessman, who along with his companies has been granted name suppression, sent two anonymous letters to Fonterra and Federated Farmers last November. The mail contained samples of formula laced with the pesticide in concentrated form. In them he allegedly demanded that 1080 be banned within four months. 

The use of 1080 is considered the most effective method of controlling possums over large areas. Though it was deemed “effective and safe” by a parliamentary re-evaluation in 2011, many New Zealanders are concerned about its affect on water sources.

Though the November threats appeared to be from an anti-1080 activist, prosecutors allege the accused, who the police say was working alone, made the threats for financial gain.

"This investigation is one of the biggest undertaken by police in recent times, and reflects how seriously we view this kind of crime​," police commissioner Mike Bush said of the Operation Concorde inquiry, which comprised 35 investigators who considered more than 2,600 people.

"The Operation Concord team has demonstrated a meticulous approach in managing large volumes of information and applying a range of forensic techniques in gathering evidence​.”

Prime Minister John Key said the threat was of deep concern to the government, even though no formula containing the poison was found in circulation.

"It's very good news that the police have arrested someone​," Key told reporters.

"We always thought it was a hoax but because of the remote risk of it being carried out it was very worrying​.”

Theo Spierings, chief executive of Fonterra, one of the victims of the plot, also expressed his relief.

Fonterra is pleased to hear that an arrest has been made as part of the investigation into the criminal blackmail threat made public in March this year​,” he said in a statement.

We’d like to acknowledge the significant joint industry response to this threat​.”

The accused man did not enter a plea when he appeared in court yesterday, having been arrested and charged the previous day. He has been remanded in custody until his next court appearance on October 28.

Related topics: Policy, Food safety, Oceania, Dairy

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