Tue, Jul 18, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Investigators smash Europe-wide illegal horse meat ring

AFP, MADRID

A Spanish-led European police investigation has broken up an organized crime group that allegedly sold horse meat across Europe that was “not suitable” for human consumption, officials said on Sunday.

Police in Spain arrested 65 people suspected of crimes including animal abuse, document forgery, public health violations, money laundering and being part of a criminal organization, Europe’s policing agency Europol said in a statement.

The suspected leader of the group, a Dutch national, was arrested in Belgium, it added.

Spain’s Guardia Civil police force last year began their investigation after detecting “unusual behavior” in horse meat markets.

“They detected a scam whereby horses in bad shape, too old or simply labeled as ‘not suitable for consumption’ were being slaughtered in two different slaughterhouses,” Europol said.

The horses came from Portugal and northern Spain and their meat was processed at an unspecified location from where it was sent to Belgium, one of the biggest horse meat exporters in the EU.

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

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

The Guardia Civil worked in cooperation with police in Belgium, the UK, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland and the Netherlands, the statement added.

Spanish police seized five luxury cars as part of the investigation and blocked several bank accounts.

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