January 15, 2021

Macro-operation against the sale of illegal bluefin tuna: 79 arrested and 80,000 kilos intervened | Society

Macro-operation against the sale of illegal bluefin tuna: 79 arrested and 80,000 kilos intervened | Society

At dawn on June 26 several dozens of Civil Guard agents broke into the main wholesale markets of Spain. There were records in Mercamadrid, Mercabarna, Mercasevilla and Mercamálaga. And arrests in several more provinces. Thus began the most important part of the so-called Operation Tarantelo, led by the Seprona and in which he has participated Europol.

Finally, this action against the commercialization of illegally caught bluefin tuna has been settled with 80,000 kilos of fish intervened, 49 records and inspections and 79 people arrested who are accused of crimes against natural resources, money laundering, criminal organization, documentary falsification and against public health.

Fishing for bluefin tuna is subject to the controls of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT, its acronym in English), which sets quotas of annual catches to preserve this species. The Spanish companies involved in this network bought tuna caught outside those quotas in Malta and Italy and then the bleached with the documents of legal items, explain sources of the investigation. Basically, they used the documentation of a legal item several times, they add.

One of the tunas intervened in Mercamadrid's records.
One of the tunas intervened in Mercamadrid's records.

The trading activity of the companies investigated was centered in Spain. The Civil Guard estimates that the framework moved an "annual volume of more than 1,250,000 kilos of tuna from Malta" that had a legal origin. While what "was marketed in black would exceed twice that amount: more than 2,500,000 kilos," adds the armed institute. The Civil Guard estimates that "a total of 12,500,000 euros a year would have been obtained illegally".

Truck full of tuna

The start of this operation dates back to 2016 and has had numerous telephone interventions. The inquiries focused initially on small businesses. However, sources of the investigation detail that in those interventions, one of the main European bluefin tuna companies, Ricardo Fuentes e Hijos, from Cartagena, allegedly became involved in the network.

Sources of the investigation explain that in the course of the records a truck with 50,000 kilos of tuna from Italy of allegedly illegal origin was located in a ship of this company. This business group, in addition to having tuna farms in Spain, also has a presence in Malta. "It is one of the leading companies in the European sector", the same sources point out.

Tuna controls made in Mercasevilla.
Tuna controls made in Mercasevilla.

The investigations have been centralized from the Court of Instruction 3 of Picassent (Valencia) and the Environmental Prosecutor's Office of that province. In addition, the Civil Guard and Europol have taken part in the security forces of Italy and France, the country through which the trucks with illegal tuna consignments circulated.


Finally, the Civil Guard has also decided to include the crime against public health. Sources of the investigation explain that in some cases they were detected "bad conditions in the transport of the illegal games" and that they have found, at least, a case of poisoning in Seville.

"The copies were transported without respecting the rules of conservation breaking the cold chain in some points," said the Guardia Civil on Tuesday. Poor transport conditions cause protein degradation in tunas. "This can cause fever and gastrointestinal disorders, like milder symptoms," says the armed institute. But "it can have serious consequences for elderly consumers and children."


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