Horse meat scandal leads to 65 arrests across Europe

Jay Anderson
July 17, 2017

A Spanish-led European police investigation has broken up an organised crime group that allegedly sold horsemeat across Europe that was "not suitable" for human consumption, officials said Sunday.

65 people arrested in Spain have been charged with crimes including animal abuse, document forgery, perverting the course of justice, crimes against public health, money laundering and being part of a criminal organisation.

Meat from the animals, which came from Portugal and several parts of northern Spain, was processed in a specific facility and from there sent to Belgium, a major horsemeat exporter.

The arrests were made throughout Spain in an operation in conjunction with crime-fighting organisation Europol and developed in coordination with several European Union countries including Britain and Belgium following the 2013 food scare.

He has been sought since a scandal in the Republic of Ireland in March 2013 when horsemeat was found in beef burgers.

Various bank accounts and real estate have been blocked and five new high-end vehicles seized.

In the summer of 2016, Guardia Civil's Environmental Protection Service initiated Operation Gazel after unusual behaviour was detected in horse-meat markets.

Samples were taken during some of the raids which were carried out in conjunction with Europol
Samples were taken during some of the raids which were carried out in conjunction with Europol

Spain's Civil Guard said that the criminal ring acquired horses in Spain and Portugal that were "in poor shape, old, or had been designated "not apt for consumption".

This marked the start of an investigation to find the origin of the contamination.

In some cases products which were labelled as beef were up to 100 per cent horse meat.

He was subsequently arrested in Belgium. Investigators were then led to the Dutch meat dealer who headed the network from Calp in Alicante, Europol reported.

"The criminal organisation forged the animals' identification by modifying theirs microchips and documentation".

The police investigation was coordinated by the Federal Police, the Federal Food Agency in Belgium and Guardia Civil.

Samples of horse meat taken during the investigation concluded that the horse meat was destined for markets outside of Spain.

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