Farmer accused of selling stolen goods as part of international operation

A NORTH Somerset farmer stole almost �100,000 worth of farm equipment, before selling it to associates in Cyprus as part of an international smuggling operation, a court has heard.

Sidcot farmer Joseph Beach appeared at North Somerset Courthouse in St Georges on Friday accused of stealing the items, which included a dumper truck and an excavator.

They were later found in the Mediterranean country by police officers working for Scotland Yard’s specialist agricultural crime unit.

The court heard 30-year-old Beach, of Queensmead Farm, Bristol Road, denies the charges again him.

However, the court was told he originally hired the excavator from Yatton-based company Plantforce Rentals in April 2010.

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Although the firm then took back the machinery after he had failed to pay for it, he then re-hired the excavator, digger and other equipment worth a total of �95,000 after reaching an agreement with the company.

But when the firm’s director Claire Trott contacted Beach on June 25, he said the machinery had been stolen while it was being used in Riverside, Banwell.

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Rebecca Gardner, prosecuting, said a police officer working for the Metropolitan Police Service’s specialist agricultural crime unit had received information that one of the vehicles had been seen in Cyprus on June 11, while the force soon gained information that the rest of the equipment was also on the island.

Beach, who also stands accused of perverting the course of justice, of stealing a shipment of animal feed, and is facing a charge of blackmail at Exeter Crown Court, was arrested after the machinery was seized.

Ms Gardner said: “We believe that this is part of a much bigger picture. This was a heavily organised crime, the equipment is worth a lot of money and this type of crime is such a big business that Scotland Yard has a specific unit to deal with crimes like this.”

David Bird, defending, said: “The allegations which have been made against Mr Beach have not been proven, and indeed some of the Crown’s arguments are based upon incidents which are only alleged to have happened.”

Beach was released on conditional bail after the hearing ahead of an appearance at Bristol Crown Court on January 20. He must sign in at Weston police station every three days.

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