European authorities have arrested 27 suspects in an alleged illegal eel operation after a two-year investigation that led to searches in France, Spain, Belgium and Poland, Spain’s Civil Guard said this week.
The Civil Guard, in a joint operation with the French National Gendarmerie, Europol and the European Anti-Fraud Office, seized 1.5 tons of live eels in danger of extinction and several tons of frozen eels that had not passed through food safety controls.
The recovered live eels were returned to their “natural environment to preserve (their) survival”, the Civil Guard said of the fish considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The suspects are accused of conducting a criminal operation to smuggle the eels to China, where it is a “high value product”, according to the Civil Guard.
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Eels can cost more than US$5,000 a kilo in some Asian countries, “which is why, for years, criminal groups and organizations have been dedicated to hiding batches of live eels and shipping them to customers in Asia,” said the Guard. Civil through a translation. .
Assets worth more than 2 million euros were also seized from the alleged criminal organization.
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Because the eels are endangered, trade within the European Union is “subject to fishing and distribution quotas, but their export outside the EU is completely prohibited”, the Civil Guard said.