Police arrest 26 across Europe in horsemeat scandal: EU agency

Police arrest 26 across Europe in horsemeat scandal: EU agency
A file picture taken on February 26, 2013 shows an agent of DDPP (Departmental protection of populations) conducting a verification of the withdrawal of frozen products containing horse meat in Herouville Saint-Clair, northwestern France.

THE HAGUE - Police from seven European countries detained 26 people and seized hundreds of horse passports in a crackdown against a Europe-wide horsemeat trafficking ring, the EU's judicial agency Eurojust said Saturday.

Eurojust said in a statement that the swoop involving hundreds of police and judicial authorities "succeeded in stopping an organised criminal network involved in trade in illegal horsemeat." The operation involved officers and the judiciary in France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Britain, the European Union agency said.

It was the result of a probe opened into a Belgian, who was the main suspect in a massive scandal two years ago over horsemeat unfit for human consumption that was being fraudulently passed off as beef in the European food chain.

French authorities estimate that between 2010 and 2013 some 4,700 horses unfit for human consumption were slaughtered and introduced into the legal food chain, Eurojust said.

In the swoops, dozens of searches of commercial and private premises were carried out and more than 800 horse passports sezied along with medication, microchips and computer equipment.

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