France’s Justice ministry has turned down a request from Buffalo Grill that it make public the elements of the criminal proceedings which form the basis of the suspicions that the steakhouse chain illegally served British beef.

The ministry said such a move would be premature and could be detrimental to the advancement of what was a complicated case and where investigations were still taking place and which required confidentiality.

Four Buffalo Grill senior executives were arrested just before Christmas. They were formally accused of fraud and manslaughter on allegations they broke an embargo and imported British beef at the height of the BSE scandal, in turn leading to a number of deaths from vCJD.

The group’s management was maintaining its line of defence that it never sold British beef in its outlets between March 1996 and the end of the embargo.