How did Ireland's horsemeat scandal spark a Europe-wide investigation?

Horsemeat was found in burgers in Irish supermarkets

Spanish police have arrested sixty five people in an operation coordinated by Europol who belonged to a network that sold horsemeat as beef.

A total of 65 people have been arrested and charged in Spain, with charges including animal abuse, money laundering and crimes against public health.

The arrests were made throughout Spain in an operation in conjunction with crime-fighting organisation Europol and developed in coordination with several European Union countries including Britain and Belgium following the 2013 food scare.

The scandal was first seen in January 2013, after Irish food inspectors tested ready-made burgers sold by the U.K. Tesco supermarket chain in that country and found them to contain horsemeat. As per investigative agencies, the meat was not fit for human consumption.

Europol said that the Spanish Guardia Civil's environmental protection service initiated Operation Gazel after unusual behaviour was detected in horse meat markets.

Other charges brought against those arrested were perverting the course of justice and committing crimes against public health.

As reported by The Independent, officials have seized the suspects' bank accounts, luxury cars and properties as part of the investigation.

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How did the racket work?

In the summer of 2016, an operation was uncovered by Spanish authorities who noticed that horses in bad shape, too old or simply labelled as "not suitable for consumption" were being slaughtered in two different slaughterhouses.

Analysis of samples conducted in The Hague concluded the meat was destined mainly for markets outside Spain, as the samples matched others found overseas.

After falsifying paperwork and substituting microchips used to identify the horses, the animals were slaughtered and the meat shipped to Belgium.

According to that report, Italy imported 21,693 tonnes and France 11,898 in 2012, while Belgium was the chief exporter, shipping 17,320 tonnes.

However, the trade is small compared, for instance, to the beef market.

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