Police authorities in Spain, have arrested and charged 65 individuals over a continent-wide ring that traded in horsemeat from animals “in bad shape, too old or simply labeled as ‘not suitable for consumption,’ according to a statement released by Europol.
European Union police coordinating organization Europol announced Sunday that eight nations cooperated in the operation. In Spain, 65 people face a series of charges relating to public health, money laundering and animal abuse.
Spain’s Civil Guard said that the criminal ring acquired horses in Spain and Portugal that were “in poor shape, old, or had been designated ‘not apt for consumption.'” After falsifying paperwork and substituting microchips used to identify the horses, the animals were slaughtered and the meat shipped to 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.
The investigation in the wake of the scandal let to “the identification of a Dutch citizen known in the horsemeat world,” Europol says.
The suspect was later identified as the ringleader of an operation investigated in 2016 in which horses unfit for human consumption were being killed in two abattoirs in northern Spain and then sent to Belgium after their paperwork and microchips were altered.
The Civil Guard said that the profits from the illegal meat could reach 20 million euros ($23 million) a year.