Ukraine’s General Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement that the poultry burial site would cause harm to the environment worth more than UAH200m ($7.5m).
The owners and beneficiaries of Agromars were suspected of seeking to obtain abnormal profits by neglecting proper waste disposal rules, Yuri Lutsenko, the General Prosecutor of Ukraine commented in a statement posted on his Facebook page. He estimated the total damage to the environment incurred by Agromars would be UAH258m ($9.7m).
Speaking at the court hearings held on 13 June, Ivan Zozulya, one of the top managers at Agromars, warned the current problems could hit the business hard. Disruption to the company’s management caused by the arrests, he said, could cause the business to stop operating in 10 to 15 days. With no timely feed supply and finance problems, Agromars could lose up to seven million head of poultry, which represented 14,000 tonnes (t) in live weight, Zozulya said.
The investigation was started by a group of local environmental activists, who reported the discovery of an unregistered poultry burial site only 1.3 km away from the nearest settlement. Irina Pobidash, one of the activists, reported on her Facebook page on 6 February that “tonnes of chicken corpses, with feather, blood and guts” had been found at the burial site.
The environmentalists reported that the place smelled really bad and became a problem for local inhabitants. Pobidash claimed agricultural holding Agromars had established the burial site, and that “the company was consistently polluting forests and fields in the region”.
Local authorities established a special commission to investigate the claims.
During the court hearings, Marina Sigal, one of the owners of Agromars, stated the company had lost 200,000 head of poultry due to the blackout in November 2017. The company’s waste processing plant did not have sufficient capacity to recycle that amount of waste, so Agromars decided to bury it in the ground, she said.
A similar situation occurred earlier in 2017, when Agromars lost 120-150t of poultry due to technological failure at one of its production facilities, Sigal said. At that time, a specially established government commission ordered the company to dispose of the waste by burying it in the ground, she claimed.
It was not clear why that measure had been taken as a crime in one case, but not so in the other, Sigal stressed. This looked like double standards, she added.
Alena Bernas, lawyer for local legal firm De Jure, told local news Liga-Biz that if the owners of Agromars were found guilty of the charges, they could be jailed for up to 10 years with the forfeiture of property.
Agromars is the second-biggest poultry producer in Ukraine. The company earned UAH87m ($3.1m) net profit in 2017, up 6.7% compared with the previous year.
Agromars had not provided any additional comments on the allegations in response to a request from GlobalMeatNews by press time.