Unfit for human consumption At least 66 arrested in European horse meat scam
17 July, 2017, 15:27
Spanish police, in coordination with Europol, dismantled an organized crime group trading horsemeat in Europe sold for humans but unfit for consumption.
Investigators looking into "unusual behavior" in horse meat markets are said to have uncovered an operation run by an organized crime syndicate in Spain in which old and neglected horses were slaughtered and sold as meat overseas.
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.
The scandal was first seen in January 2013, after Irish food inspectors tested ready-made burgers sold by the U.K. Tesco supermarket chain in that country and found them to contain horsemeat.
Police say the gang netted more than 20 million euros trading unfit horse meat across the continent.
The animals' identification was forged by modifying microchips and documents, police learned after the crackdown in their operation. In Spain, 65 people face a series of charges relating to public health, money laundering and animal abuse.
Meat from the animals, which came from Portugal and several parts of northern Spain, was processed in a specific facility and from there sent to Belgium, a major horsemeat exporter.
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A French supplier, Comigel, which supplies products to customers in 16 countries, was at the time implicated in the scandal.
The main suspect in the case was later arrested in Belgium, Europol added.
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.
Spain's Guardia Civil (police) began Operation Gazel a year ago after detecting unusual behaviour in horsemeat markets.
Bank accounts, properties and luxury cars were seized as part of the investigation.
"They detected a scam whereby horses in bad shape, too old or simply labelled as "not suitable for consumption" were being slaughtered in two different slaughterhouses", Europol said.
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