Dutchman at centre of new European horse meat scandal

Ivan Schwartz
July 17, 2017

The group is suspected of having modified the horse's microchips and documentation to pass off the meat as edible.

Of the 66 people arrested, 65 were arrested by Spanish police with the other person being arrested in Belgium.

The investigation is related to 2013's horsemeat scandal, which came to light after the Food Safety Authority of Ireland found that 10 out of 27 hamburger products it analyzed in a study contained horse DNA.

They face charges of animal abuse, documentary falsification, prevarication, crimes against public health, money laundering and belonging to a criminal organisation.

More than five dozen people were arrested in Spain for selling "beef" that turned out to be horse meat.

Authorities allege horse meat was being sold that was unfit for human consumption.

The leader of the criminal group, a Dutch national, was arrested in Belgium as part of the operation, but Europol believe that the Spanish group is just a small part of his overall trading reach.

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A spokesman for the Civil Guard said officers launched a full-scale probe called Operation Gazel after detecting "atypical signs in the horse meat trade" last summer.

Investigators searched for the origin of the contamination and tracked it to the Dutch man.

The chief suspect, a Dutch businessman, was arrested in Belgium in April.

"The investigation revealed the existence of an organisation which acquired horses which were in bad condition and old and not apt for consumption and sacrificed them in two specific slaughter houses", he said. This action was coordinated by the Federal Police, the Federal Food Agency in Belgium and Guardia Civil.

Different police actions were simultaneously carried out in France, Portugal, Italy, Romania, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Europol has worked actively in all necessary actions, including coordination, first contact with other affected countries in order to initiate investigations, and summoning and supporting all involved agencies for coordination and analysis meetings in The Hague, where all the information was studied and processed. Further investigations showed that meat sold in ready-made meals in many British supermarkets consisted of anything up to 100 percent horsemeat.

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