A COMPANY and one of its former directors have been sentenced after a deadly “fat-burner” chemical was illegally sold for human consumption.
Carlisle Crown Court heard how a highly toxic substance called 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP) was shipped in tablet form by Enhanced Athlete Europe Limited to customers worldwide “so that people could consume it as a weight-loss drug”.
It was packed and despatched from a secluded factory at Station Yard in Wigton. When this was raided, in September 2017, 11kg of loose DNP powder – capable of producing 220,000 tablets – was found along with a mixing machine, large pill press and other equipment.
Also present was 25-year-old Shaun Thomas Corrigan – at that time the sole director of Enhanced Athlete Europe – whose hands were noted to be “stained yellow”.
Investigators uncovered emails in which dosage discussions and feedback were exchanged. Some people raised “serious concerns” about the use of DNP as a fat-burner. One warned Corrigan: “Last thing you want, bro, is some kid burning himself inside out and you end up on a manslaughter charge.”
Although not represented in court, Enhanced Athlete Europe Limited went on trial and was convicted, unanimously, of placing an unsafe food stuff on the market for human consumption. Corrigan had previously admitted, as an ex-director, that the company – which had registered addresses at Wigton and Gateshead – committed the offence.
During the company’s trial, prosecutor Joseph Hart told jurors: “DNP, whilst it can cause rapid weight-loss if consumed, it’s toxic to humans, causing serious harmful side effects and, in fact, fatalities.” Mr Hart said of the offending during today’s sentencing hearing: “There was a clear, deliberate attempt to conceal the illegal nature of the activity.”
Corrigan, of Pottersway, Gateshead, was described as “very remorseful” for his role. He “basically ran the company”, the court heard, but was not a major shareholder.
A nine-month jail term was suspended for 12 months, and he must complete 180 hours unpaid work. He was disqualified from acting as a company director for two years. “I am sure that you knew there were dangers to this drug,” Judge James Adkin told Corrigan. “There was a high risk of an adverse effect on individuals by selling what was, in essence, a poison.”
The company was fined £100,000 plus £47,161.55 costs.
Speaking after the case, Cllr Carni McCarron-Holmes, Executive member with responsibility for Housing, Health and Wellbeing at Allerdale Council, praised the work of officers saying: “This has been a really meticulous investigation by council officers and I’m really pleased that it has resulted in a guilty plea by Mr Corrigan, and a successful prosecution of Enhanced Athlete Europe Ltd. People need to be aware of the dangers associated with DNP and drugs that can be bought over the internet.”
Darren Davies, Head of the National Food Crime Unit, added: “DNP is a toxic chemical and the danger posed by this substance, with a very real risk of death, needs to be highlighted. It is completely irresponsible and unforgiveable to be selling this item for human consumption. We were pleased to work with Allerdale Council and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to secure this successful prosecution.”
Enhanced Athlete Europe Ltd and Mr Corrigan were prosecuted under the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 by virtue of the fact that there has been a contravention of Article 14 of Regulation (EC) Number 178/2002 which states that food should not be placed on the market if it is unsafe.
It is believed that scores of people have died worldwide as a result of taking DNP.