Published: Mon, July 17, 2017
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Europol Arrests 66 People in Horsemeat Investigation

Europol Arrests 66 People in Horsemeat Investigation

The group is suspected of having modified the horse's microchips and documentation to pass off the meat as edible.

Several EU nations were involved in the food scam operation which reportedly took several months to organize, with Spain, the U.K., France, Belgium, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland and Romania involved.

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

He was first sought in connection with a scandal in the Republic of Ireland in 2013, when horsemeat was found in beef burgers, but his whereabouts were unknown at that time.

The 66 people arrested were charged with crimes such as animal abuse, document forgery, perverting the course of justice, crimes against public health, money laundering and being part of a criminal organisation.

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Horse DNA was discovered in frozen beef burgers sold in a number of British and Irish supermarkets in 2013.

The horse meat is once again in the spotlight.

"The investigation revealed the existence of an organisation which acquired horses which were in bad condition and old and not apt for consumption and sacrificed them in two specific slaughter houses", he said.

A spokesman for the Civil Guard said officers launched a full-scale probe called Operation Gazel after detecting "atypical signs in the horse meat trade" last summer.

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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The chief suspect, a Dutch businessman, was arrested in Belgium in April. This action was coordinated by the Federal Police, the Federal Food Agency in Belgium and Guardia Civil.

The meat was sold across Europe and may have earned the group over 20 million euros ($23 million) per year, Spanish police said in a separate statement.

Bank accounts, properties and luxury cars were seized as part of the investigation.

Analysis of samples conducted in The Hague concluded the meat was destined mainly for markets outside Spain, as the samples matched others found overseas.

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