French tourists face six years in jail over claims they stole Sardinia sand

Couple in hot water as Italian authorities get tough on issue blighting island for years

A couple of French tourists could face up to six years in jail after allegedly pilfering 40kg of sand from one of Sardinia’s pristine beaches.Photograph:  Jorg Greuel/Getty Images

A couple of French tourists could face up to six years in jail after allegedly pilfering 40kg of sand from one of Sardinia’s pristine beaches.Photograph: Jorg Greuel/Getty Images

 

A couple of French tourists could face up to six years in jail after allegedly pilfering 40kg of sand from one of Sardinia’s pristine beaches.

Border police found the white sand, taken from Chia beach in the south of the Italian island, stashed into 14 large plastic bottles in the boot of the couple’s car. The pair were about to board a ferry for Toulon, in southern France, from Porto Torres.

They told police they took the sand as a “souvenir” and did not realise they had committed an offence.

But they now face between one and six years in prison as Sardinian authorities get tough on an issue that has blighted the island for years.

Police said there has been a “boom” this summer in the quantity of sand, shells and other beach objects found in people’s luggage at the island’s airports, with 10 tons seized at Olbia, close to the Costa Smeralda, in recent weeks alone.

People also risk fines of up to €3,000, but police struggle to apply the penalties due tomost culprits being visitors.

“When those responsible for these episodes are foreigners, it is difficult to collect the fines,” Antonio Casula, the chief of Sardinia’s forest rangers, told La Stampa, adding that the incidents were becoming more frequent.

Vigilantes patrol the beaches and signposts clearly warn that it is forbidden to take sand. But unaware of the seriousness of the offence, many tourists find the sand an irresistible keepsake.

The sand is usually placed in plastic bottles or bags and labelled with the name of the beach from which it was taken. Although the practice is seemingly harmless, it is not only an offence but detrimental to the island’s environment.

Some sand thieves do repent, however. A man from Rome recently returned a bottle of sand he had stolen as a child to the mayor of Cabras.

In 2016, a woman who took sand from Budelli, an island off Sardinia that is famous for its pink-sand beach, returned it after 29 years.

The woman sent the sand back with an apology, writing: “I read in some newspapers and heard on the TV what this sand is and how it is made. I understood how unique Sardinia is. I felt guilty.”– Guardian