Pictures show the fake brands of mutton distributed for sale to neighbourhood stores across the country.
DOHA: Civic officials have unearthed a fake company that was buying unsold meat and refuse from slaughterhouses and meat shops in commercial quantities at throwaway prices and packaging them as mutton for sale to neighbourhood stores.
The stores that sold these products were mainly patronised by low-income workers who were, apparently, happy buying mutton at low rates.
The Health Control Section of Doha Municipality zeroed in on the shady place — a large labour camp with no occupants — where the so-called company had huge refrigeration units that could store up to a tonne of meat at a time.
Equipment like meat cutting and chopping machines, printed labels with production and expiry dates and packaging materials were discovered at the location and seized.
Four Asians have been taken into custody by the police and investigations are on, but their ring leader and the so-called owner of the fake company, also an Asian, was in Dubai, arguably for New Year revelry, so he could not be arrested.
A senior civic official concerned with the matter told The Peninsula that if the ring leader didn’t return, the Interpol could be approached to get him here for trial.
According to Mohamed Ahmed Al Sayed, head of the Health Control Section at the municipality, the shady operators bought unsold meat and refuse from slaughterhouses and meat shops at very low rates.
They stored stocks in refrigeration units at their shady facility in Shabiat Khalifa, near Lekhwiya headquarters, and cut and chopped and packaged them and passed them on as branded meat with labelling, and sold to outlets all over Qatar that were frequented mainly by low-income workers.
“I think they wouldn’t be paying more than QR4 a kg for the waste, and were selling a packet of the same meat mixed with a lot of bones for up to QR14,” said Al Sayed. They had polythene bags with labels printed in different colours that carried fake brand names such as “Halal Cold Store”, “Al Qamar Cold Store” and “Pee Ke Cold Store” and so on.
Only one of these ‘brands” would be distributed to outlets in one locality. For example, the green one, “Al Halal Store” packets, was exclusively for Al Wakrah area.
The address of the fake company with the packet’s weight (800 grams) and production and expiry dates were also printed on the labels.
Al Sayed said his inspectors, during a routine check on a smaller outlet under the jurisdiction of Doha Municipality, happened to see the fake brand displayed for sale. “They became suspicious and asked the shopkeeper for the purchase voucher to see who the suppliers were.”
The shopkeeper said he didn’t have a voucher. However, it took some effort on the part of the inspectors to get from the shopkeeper the mobile number of one of the “salesmen” of the shady company.
The “salesman” led the officials to the “manager” of the shady facility, who was questioned, and it turned out that their ring leader was not here but in Dubai.
“They were using a facility to carry out their shady business that was actually meant to be a labour camp,” Al Sayed said.
On seeing equipment, including at least three large refrigerating units, the police were informed and they accompanied officials to the facility in Shabiat Khalifa.
Al Sayed said he guessed from the labels seized from the facility that the shady operations had been going on for more than six months. He said the perpetrators of the crime were so clever that they didn’t try to push their fake products on to bigger shopping complexes and malls as they would be instantly caught.
“They were targeting only smaller stores that mostly cater to low-income workers,” Al Sayed said.
According to him, outlets, as a matter of rule, must keep purchase vouchers and must inform authorities if they come across such pushers of fake products instead of patronising them.
It is a serious breach of law to patronise and encourage such shady operators, said the official.