Updated: 17/07/17 : 07:33:16Printable Version
A Spanish-led police operation has cracked a racket in horsemeat unfit for human consumption, the EU's police agency Europol says.Police in Spain made 65 arrests for crimes including animal abuse, forgery, money laundering and racketeering.
Horses in Portugal and Spain deemed unfit for consumption were slaughtered and their meat passed off as edible.
A Dutch businessman arrested in Belgium is said to have controlled the illegal trade from south-west Spain.
He was first sought in connection with a scandal in the Republic of Ireland in 2013, when horsemeat was found in beef burgers, but his whereabouts were unknown at that time.
The issue in the earlier scandal was one of food fraud rather than food safety.
How big was the police swoop?
Spain's Guardia Civil (police) began Operation Gazel a year ago after detecting unusual behaviour in horsemeat markets.
They worked in co-ordination with Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland and the UK, Europol said in a statement.
The unnamed Dutchman controlled the crime ring from Calpe in Alicante, on Spain's Costa Blanca, "putting his most trusted men in charge in every country affected by the scam", Europol says.
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.
Other charges brought against those arrested were perverting the course of justice and committing crimes against public health.
Horses in bad shape, too old or simply labelled as "not suitable for consumption" were being slaughtered in two different slaughterhouses, Europol says.
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.
Microchips and documentation were modified by the crime group.
Analysis of samples conducted in The Hague concluded the meat was destined mainly for markets outside Spain, as the samples matched others found abroad.