Sixty-five arrests in Europe over alleged illicit trade in horse-meat

Police say the group altered the identity of the horses by replacing their microchips or falsifying their passports.

The arrests were made throughout Spain in an operation in conjunction with crime-fighting organisation Europol and developed in coordination with several European Union countries including Britain and Belgium following the 2013 food scare.

A Dutch national has been arrested in Belgium and authorities suspect that he is the mastermind behind the operation.

In 2013, the horsemeat scandal was exposed in Europe after Irish authorities uncovered horsemeat in products marked as beef burgers.

All in all, ” seventy-five people have been arrested and prosecuted for crimes such as animal abuse, the production of fakes, or damage to the public health, money laundering and belonging to a criminal association”, said Europol in a press release.

A scam which saw horse meat served up as beef burgers in Britain has been busted after 65 people were arrested in a Europe-wide operation.

It found that horses that were in bad shape, too old or simply labelled as “not suitable for consumption” were being slaughtered in two different slaughterhouses.

The origin of the investigation, the Guardia Civil Spanish had detected irregularities on the market for horse meat.

According to Europol, the Dutchman had put “his most trusted men in charge in every country affected by the scam”.

Europol reported Sunday that a Dutch citizen is believed to be the head of the horsemeat trading gang and was arrested in Belgium on various charges including crimes against public health and forgery.

Europol announced that eight nations co-operated in the operation.

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.

Several bank accounts and properties have been frozen and five high-end cars seized as a result.

Analysis of samples conducted in The Hague concluded the meat was destined mainly for markets outside Spain, as the samples matched others found overseas.