European and UK authorities have remain tight-lipped over whether the crackdown on a criminal gang suspected of horsemeat fraud has any connection to the 2013 Horsegate scandal.
EU agency Eurojust said authorities in France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the UK had raided dozens of commercial and private premises as part of an “ongoing” investigation into an “organised criminal network” involved in trading illegal horsemeat.
A total of 26 people were arrested, and police seized €37,000 (£26,000) in cash, along with more than 800 horse passports, medication, microchips, computer equipment and 200 horses, currently being examined by vets.
Eurojust said the gang was suspected of slaughtering thousands of horses deemed unfit for human consumption and falsifying their health documents before selling them into “the legal food chain” between 2010 and 2013. However, it remains unclear whether the group’s activities were linked in any way to the horsemeat-sold-as-beef supply chain scandal.
French and Belgian prosecutors have not responded to requests for more information on the arrests; the Belgian media reported the main suspect - a Belgian national - had been arrested in France.
Dutch prosecutors confirmed three suspects were arrested in the Netherlands following raids on 15 properties.
In the UK, operations were handled by Kent Police, which confirmed officers had searched an address near Selsted on Friday 24 April as part of the European investigation. “No arrests were made but documentation was seized and the investigation is ongoing,” said a spokesman.
The FSA and City of London Police - which was tasked with tracking down the UK criminals responsible for the 2013 horsegate scandal - said they had no involvement in this investigation.