European police 'dismantle' organised crime group trading horsemeat

Dutchman at centre of new European horse meat scandal

Europol says 66 arrested in horsemeat scandal investigation

Spanish police, in coordination with Europol, dismantled an organized crime group trading horsemeat in Europe sold for humans but unfit for consumption.

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65 people arrested in Spain 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.

Investigators concluded that the Spanish element of this organisation was a small part of the whole European structure controlled by the Dutch suspect, Europol said in a statement.

Europol said that the Spanish Guardia Civil's environmental protection service initiated Operation Gazel after unusual behaviour was detected in horse meat markets.

Old, unfit or just unwanted horses were deliberately targeted in Portugal and the north of Spain and put down in two concrete slaughterhouses, police say.

The criminal organisation forged the animals' identification by modifying theirs microchips and documentation, Europol alleges.

The operation was coordinated with police in Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland and Britain.

Bank accounts, properties and luxury cars were seized as part of the investigation.

Horsemeat was found in beefburgers in Irish and British supermarkets, including four of Tesco's own-brand meat products, in 2013.

At the time of the 2013 scandal, it was reported that Fasen had been convicted of marketing South American horsemeat as halal-slaughtered Dutch beef.

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The results concluded that the destination of the horsemeat was mainly outside of Spain because the samples in Spain matched those found overseas.

Officials test for traces of horse DNA in meat samples.

The investigation eventually led the Civil Guard to the Dutch meat trader, who had initially been involved in the beef burger scandal and was based in Calpe, Spain.

"Although they were distributed in different ways, their meat was mainly prepared in an industrial plant and sent from there to Belgium, which is the European Union's leading meat exporter".

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