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Europol makes 66 arrests in horsemeat scandal

Europol has announced that 66 people have been arrested for trading horsemeat unfit for human consumption. Eight EU nations cooperated in the operation.

Pferdefleisch in Frankreich (Reuters)

Some 66 suspects have been arrested as part of a crackdown on an international ring trading illegally in horsemeat across Europe, the EU police organization Europol reported on Sunday. The crime organization is accused of selling inexpensive horsemeat as expensive beef.

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A Dutch meat dealer believed to be the head of the gang was arrested in Belgium and has been charged with forgery and crimes against public health, among other crimes.

The 65 other individuals were arrested in Spain and face a series of charges.

"In Spain, 65 people were arrested and charged with crimes such as animal abuse, document forgery, perverting the course of justice, crimes against public health, money laundering and being part of a criminal organization," Europol said in a statement. Europol added that it had seized bank accounts, properties and luxury cars in the course of the investigation.

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.

'100 percent horsemeat'

The horsemeat scandal first surfaced in January 2013, when food inspectors in Ireland found horsemeat in ready-made burgers sold by British supermarket chain Tesco. Soon thereafter, tests revealed that meat in ready meals sold in British supermarkets contained up to 100 percent horsemeat.

In summer 2016, Spanish environmental authorities found irregularities in the trade of horsemeat, which they found to be incorrectly labeled and exported. Investigators were then led to the Dutch meat dealer who headed the network from Calp, in Alicante, Europol reported.

ss/tj (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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