Economy

Europol makes 66 arrests in horsemeat scandal

Europol makes 66 arrests in horsemeat scandal

Police say the group altered the identity of the horses by replacing their microchips or falsifying their passports.

The operation against the food scam reportedly took several months to coordinate, as authorities in Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland, Britain and Spain took part in it.

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

Europol says a further 65 suspects were arrested in Spain and are facing charges for a series of crimes, including animal abuse, crimes against public health, perverting the course of justice, document forgery, being a part of a criminal organization and money laundering.

Inspecting meats
Inspecting meats

According to the Financieele Dagblad, Fasen has an earlier conviction for selling cheap Argentine horse meat to Muslims as halal beef.

Officials test for traces of horse DNA in meat samples.

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

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

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In a statement, Europol said: "Horses in bad shape, too old or simply labelled as "not suitable for consumption" were being slaughtered in two different slaughterhouses".

The chief suspect, a Dutch businessman, was arrested in Belgium in April.

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

Police carried out raids in both Alicante and Leon, in the north of Spain, blocking or seizing bank accounts and properties, and confiscating five luxury cars.

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Spanish police helped dismantle a network suspected of putting horsemeat unfit for human consumption into the food chain and making a profit of €23m a year.

Because of the worldwide nature of this case, Guardia Civil asked Europol for its support in the operation. Further investigations showed that meat sold in ready-made meals in many British supermarkets consisted of anything up to 100 percent horsemeat.

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