It is by following this trail that the police Spanish were able to reveal the extent of the network.
The 65 suspects were arrested during a series of raids in Spain and included the alleged ringleader, a Dutch entrepreneur who is being linked directly with a horse meat scam which caused a major beefburger scare in Ireland in 2013. Some of the horses were sourced in Portugal.
The investigation began in 2013 after authorities in Ireland discovered beefburgers containing horsemeat.
Spain's Guardia Civil and the Europol charged the group with various crimes including animal abuse, document forgery, perverting the course of justice, crimes against public health, money laundering and being part of a criminal organization, a press release said.
The Spanish investigation was launched previous year after unusual behaviour was detected in the horse meat market.
According to the Financieele Dagblad, Fasen has an earlier conviction for selling cheap Argentine horse meat to Muslims as halal beef.
Old, unfit or just unwanted horses were deliberately targeted in Portugal and the north of Spain and put down in two concrete slaughterhouses, police say.
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"The criminal organisation forged the animals' identification by modifying theirs microchips and documentation".
Horses in Portugal and Spain deemed unfit for consumption were slaughtered and their meat passed off as edible.
A Dutch national has been arrested in Belgium and authorities suspect that he is the mastermind behind the operation.
The Europe-wide investigation eventually led the Guardia Civil to the Dutch businessman, who is said to be "known in the horsemeat world".
Europol has worked actively in all necessary actions, including coordination, first contact with other affected countries in order to initiate investigations, and summoning and supporting all involved agencies for coordination and analysis meetings in The Hague, where all the information was studied and processed. They blocked or seized bank accounts and properties, and confiscated five luxury cars.
Samples of horse meat taken during the investigation concluded that the horse meat was destined for markets outside of Spain.
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