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In an operation carried out by Spanish police in coordination with Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, 65 people were arrested for trading horse meat, unfit for human consumption. The individuals were 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, the press release says.
The investigation commenced in 2013 after the Irish authorities detected horse meat in beef burgers. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland found horse DNA in 10 out of 27 hamburger products it analysed. In one sample from Tesco, Britain’s largest grocery chain, horsemeat accounted for about 29% of the burger.
The investigation in the wake of the scandal led to “the identification of a Dutch citizen known in the horsemeat world,” Europol says.
The suspect was later identified as the ringleader of an operation investigated in 2016 in which horses unfit for human consumption were being killed in two abattoirs in northern Spain and then sent to Belgium after their paperwork and microchips were altered.
The meat was mostly sold abroad, the investigators concluded after analysing the samples. The Dutch suspect oversaw operations from Alicante, Spain, and had a network of “his most trusted men in charge in every country affected by the scam.”
The leader of the criminal group was arrested in Belgium, and police actions were carried out across the continent, including in France, Portugal, Italy, Romania, Switzerland and the UK.