26 October 2005
Daily Mirror " EXCLUSIVE: LORD BIRD FLU"
Scam cash paid for his title -Tax dodge landed him in jail
By Daniel Boffey And Robert Stansfield
THE owner of the quarantine centre where a parrot died of bird flu made £7.7million by smuggling exotic birds.
Convicted fraudster Brett Hammond used the fortune he amassed over three years to buy himself a Lord of the Manor title, two sports cars and a string of foreign holidays.
Customs and Excise were aware of his trade back in 1993, but he was only nailed for a £650,000 VAT dodge, meaning he was allowed to resume his business after 12 months in jail.
Andrew Tyler, the director for Animal Aid, said: "It is outrageous that the Government should entrust proven crooks with the vital job not only of protecting of birds through quarantine but as a bulwark against a human pandemic."
Despite its failure to monitor
- the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs defended its record, saying: "We don't have the right, duty or obligation to check someone's criminal record." Hammond
Defra was also under fire yesterday as it emerged that just six months ago
had blocked a European ban on importing live birds. Britain
EU veterinary chiefs have now approved a month-long temporary ban.
Hammond, 43, owns Pegasus Birds, in West Horndon, near Brentwood, Essex, where the killer H5N1 infected parrot is thought to have died. It is thought the parrot was allowed contact with birds from , against veterinary and government advice. Thailand
At his trial in 1996,
was sentenced to 18 months' jail, but this was reduced to a year on appeal. Hammond
The court was told how he kept his prices low by ignoring regulations at a makeshift quarantine centre he built in the back garden of his rundown bungalow.
Birds were dropped off in the dead of night for sale the next day, despite the fact all captive birds imported into the
were required to undergo 35 days' quarantine, the court heard. UK
Last night it emerged preliminary tests on dead wild geese found in western
showed they had bird flu. But a local health official said they died from poisoning, not the virus. Germany
Further tests will be carried out to check if it was the H5N1 strain.
Meanwhile, flu vaccine manufacturers warned they would struggle to deliver jabs for 60million people.
An eight-week vaccination programme will require 15million jabs a week - normally 12million jabs are given over the entire flu season.
Spokesman Richard Stubbins,told the House of Lords: "We have a lot of work to do to bridge the gap."
The EU food safety agency is set to advise against consuming raw eggs to prevent the spread of bird flu.