The Guardia Civil (Spanish police) has cracked a fraudulent scheme which includes selling horse meat in Europe which was classified as inedible for health and safety reasons.
The scandal saw 65 people arrested by Spanish police for their involvement in: animal abuse, forgery, money laundering and racketeering.
The horses came from Spain and Portugal, and were deemed unfit for consumption, although they were still slaughtered passed off by the criminals as acceptable.
A Dutch businessman, who has now been arrested in Belgium, is said to have controlled the illegal trade from southwest Spain.
The Dutch man was first sought after in 2013 in connection with the scandal in Ireland, when horse meat was found in beef burgers, but the businessman couldn’t be tracked down at the time.
Spanish police began investigating this new case a year ago, after detecting strange behaviour in the horsemeat market.
Other countries involved in the scandal were: Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland and the U.K. The Dutchman, who is still unnamed, was well-connected with others in these countries, and controlled the whole crime from Calpe, in Alicante.
Raids have now been carried out in Alicante, as well as Leon in the north of Spain; blocking bank accounts, seizing properties and confiscating luxury cars.
Charges against others included perverting the course of justice and committing crimes against public health.
Although not a popular choice of meat to eat nowadays in many EU countries, the French and Italian are known to still enjoy their historical horse dishes.
Italy imports around 21,693 tonnes of horsemeat a year and France around 11,898, while Belgium, the chief exporter of horsemeat in Europe, ships around 17,320 tonnes.