Europe- The Federal Police carried out raids on eight addresses in Namur and Antwerp on June 1 as a part of a nationwide investigation into food fraud. Those apprehended are accused of selling meat from horses and other protected animals.
Four men of age between 26 to 55, a 55-year-old woman from Belgium, and a 29-year-old Spanish national have been detained and will face questioning.
As per the prosecutor’s office, the suspects are thought to be part of an organised international criminal network. Europol and SEPRONA, the conservation service of the Spanish Civil Guard, are taking part in the investigation into the large-scale import and export of horses, donkeys and other animals.
Moreover, those have been involved and operated under the guise of wholesalers of livestock, agricultural products, and textiles. Checks conducted by the Federal Agency for Food Chain Safety (AFSCA) and the Animal Welfare Inspectorate showed that criminals had tampered with animal passports and microchips.
Additionally, the suspects allegedly altered information relating to the sale and trade of exotic and protected animals recorded by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna & Flora (CITES). Notable, horses’ provenance was altered to sell them for horse meat.
The criminals were able to cheat the system for financial gain, causing a potential danger to public health and the food chain by bypassing animal welfare standards.
Furthermore, the nationwide raids turned up horse passports, health certificates, controlled anaesthetics and hormones, nine vehicles, cash, and a weapon. All of the horses will be taken into the protection of the AFSCA.