THE Guardia Civil, in collaboration with Europol, has dismantled a network trading in unfit horse meat whose ringleader lived in Calpe.
Operation ‘Gazel’, which resulted in the arrest of 65 people across Europe, was developed in coordination with Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The network traded in horse meat from animals ‘in bad shape, too old or simply labelled as not suitable for consumption’, according to a statement released by Europol.
The 65 arrested have been 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 investigation is related to 2013’s horse meat scandal, which came to light after the Food Safety Authority of Ireland found that 10 out of 27 beef burger products it analysed in a study contained horse DNA.
In one sample from Tesco the horse meat accounted for about 29 per cent of the burger.
The investigation pulled together information from fast food restaurants, manufacturers of frozen products and marketing companies and let to ‘the identification of a Dutch citizen known in the horsemeat world,’ Europol says.
The Dutch citizen was later identified as the ringleader of an operation investigated in 2016 in which horses unfit for human consumption were being killed in two slaughterhouses in northern Spain and then sent to Belgium after their paperwork and microchips were altered.
After analysing samples of the meat found in the Spanish slaughterhouses, investigators concluded that the meat was mostly sold abroad.
The suspect oversaw operations from Calpe and had a network of ‘his most trusted men in charge in every country affected by the scam.’
He was arrested in Belgium and police actions were carried out across the continent.