Horse-meat investigation ‘ongoing’, say Irish authorities

Department of Agriculture and gardaí in EU operation of 26 arrests and passport seizures

When the horse-meat scandal emerged in 2013 beef cost about €4 a kilo while horse meat was around 90 cents

When the horse-meat scandal emerged in 2013 beef cost about €4 a kilo while horse meat was around 90 cents

 

Gardaí and the Department of Agriculture were involved in an European crackdown on the illegal horse-meat trade on Friday and said their investigation was “ongoing”.

The initiative by Eurojust, the EU’s judicial co-operation unit, involved 26 arrests across Europe as well as the seizure of more than 800 horse passports and €37,000 in cash.

It appears that the investigations centred around France, the Netherlands and Belgium. Eurojust also said searches of commercial and private premises were carried out and medication, dozens of microchips and computer equipment were also seized.

More than 200 horses were being examined by veterinary services as a result of the investigation. The EU agency said the operation had “succeeded in stopping an organised criminal network involved in trade in illegal horse meat”.

A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture said he could confirm that the the department’s veterinary officers were involved in the operation with members of An Garda Síochána.

“As it’s an ongoing investigation, we’ve no further comment to make at this time,” he said. A Garda spokesman said he had nothing more to add at the moment.

Eurojust did not say where the 26 arrests took place but French media reported that there were 10 arrests there while the Dutch public prosecutor’s office said three people were arrested in the Netherlands and French authorities had requested their extradition.

Reports in Belgium said four Belgian nationals were arrested in France.

Police and judicial authorities from France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the UK were involved in the common action day. They included 100 officers of the Gendarmerie Nationale of France and 100 officers from the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority.

The EU agency said French authorities estimated that 4,700 horses unfit for human consumption were slaughtered and introduced into the legal food chain between 2010 and 2013.

“Due to falsification, suppression and/or modification of official health documentation by the group, the horse meat, deemed unfit for human consumption, was able to fraudulently enter the European food chain.”

The EU agency said investigations into the main suspect, a Belgian national operating from Belgium, began in Belgium in November 2012. This was two months before the horse-meat scandal was revealed by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

In January 2013 it published the findings of a survey of beef product tests which showed that one beef burger contained found 29 per cent equine DNA in the meat content.

It soon emerged that it was an EU-wide issue and beef lasagne from the French food supplier Comigel was found to contain up to 100 per cent horse meat.

At that time, beef was selling for around €4 a kilo while horse meat cost about 90 cent.

Earlier this month, a Dutch court jailed meat wholesaler Willy Selten for two-and-a-half years for selling horse meat passed off as beef. Last month, Yorkshire abattoir boss Peter Boddy was fined £8,000 after admitting one count of failing to abide by EU meat traceability regulations. His abattoir manager David Moss received a suspended sentence after admitting forging an invoice concerning the number of horses sold in a transaction.