The Supreme Court has forced the National Court to assume the investigation to a network dedicated to the sale of horse meat not fit for consumption in two slaughterhouses of Leon, dismantled in 2017 in Operation "Gazel", on the understanding that the accused They were part of a criminal organization.
The Supreme Court has adopted this decision in an order, to which Efe has had access, in which it resolves the issue of competence raised by the denial of the Central Court of Instruction number 3 of the National Court to take charge of this case when the court of Ponferrada (León) that initiated the instruction.
The high court, on the other hand, considers that the National Court is competent because, in light of the reasoned statement submitted by the court of Ponferrada and the opinion of the prosecutor, "The existence of an organized group with the ultimate goal of placing within the human food chain, nationally and internationally" is confirmed. and "without any sanitary control prior to falsification in their identification documents".
For the Supreme Court, therefore, it is an illegal act that took place "within the framework of a hierarchical organization and with attribution of different functions of different responsibilities in its components, with suitable means to prepare and carry out said purpose".
All this "concurrence persistence and continuity in the activities of the group, being located in different geographical areas", which, in the opinion of the magistrates, suggests, "at least in principle a form of organization, certainly not improvised or occasional."
These suspicions, says the order of last June, stem from the investigation that has consisted mainly of telephone interventions, surveillance checks, letters rogatory and home records and computer equipment.
According to those tests, since 2015 in the regional slaughterhouse of Astorga and the Matadero de Toreno there have been "entries of horse breed copies covered with documents that do not correspond to the actual animals and that in many cases they do not have any sanitary control in the farm of origin. "There were even" items of animals whose origin, among others, is Portugal, without the mandatory guidelines for movement / transfer ".
In the Gazel operation, which was carried out in April 2017, 65 people were arrested, of which nine were imprisoned and, according to the Civil Guard, with this operation it was possible to dismantle a European marketing network with annual benefits of 20 millions of euros. The detainees are charged with the crimes of animal abuse, documentary falsification, prevarication, against public health, money laundering and criminal organization.
The so-called Gazel operation investigates an illegal network of sale of horse meat and in a first phase, after which the secrecy of the summary was decreed, almost twenty people were arrested in ten provinces of seven autonomous communities. The irregularities investigated affect both the slaughter process of the animals and the subsequent distribution of the meat.
In the operation, which the Civil Guard carried out in collaboration with Europol, eight other European countries participated: France, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Romania, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
The first investigations of the operation started last summer, when "atypical signs" were detected in the horse meat market that attracted the attention of professionals of the sector and agents of the Civil Guard Seprona.