66 people arrested in Spanish horse meat investigation

66 people arrested in Spanish horse meat investigation

An organised crime group that was selling horse meat that was unfit for human consumption has been broken up by Spanish police.

Police in Spain made 65 arrests for crimes including animal abuse, forgery, money laundering and racketeering.

A scam which saw horse meat served up as beef burgers in Britain has been busted after 65 people were arrested in a Europe-wide operation.

The investigation in the wake of the scandal let to "the identification of a Dutch citizen known in the horsemeat world", Europol says.

In 2013, the horsemeat scandal was exposed in Europe after Irish authorities uncovered horsemeat in products marked as beef burgers.

The spokesman explained that officers launched a full-scale probe, called Operation Gazel, after detecting "atypical signs in the horse meat trade" previous year.

The unnamed Dutchman controlled the crime ring from Calpe in Alicante, on Spain's Costa Blanca, "putting his most trusted men in charge in every country affected by the scam", Europol says.

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Police carried out several raids in the north of Spain, blocking or seizing bank accounts and properties as well as confiscating five luxury cars.

How did the racket work?

Spanish police began investigating a group which slaughtered Spanish and Portuguese horses too old or in too bad a condition for human consumption, forged their documentation and sent them to Belgium, a large horse meat exporter in the European Union.

The spokesman claimed that the organisation changed the identify of the horses by substituting their microchips or falsifying animal passports. The results concluded that the destination of the horse meat was mainly outside of Spain, due to the fact that the samples in Spain matched those found overseas.

However, a photo released by Europol shows one horse with a bloody slash close to its mane.

People in Italy and France are the biggest consumers of Equidae - the "taxonomic" family of horses and related animals - according to a report by the Guardian in 2013.

Total EU horsemeat imports in 2012 came to 50,250 tonnes and exports 54,853, while EU beef imports in 2011 totalled 315,000 tonnes and exports - 510,200.

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