Spanish police have arrested one of the alleged ringleaders of the 2013 horse meat scandal.

Guardia Civil detained Dutchman Jan Fasen in Calpe, Alicante last month at the request of French authorities. The National Court must now decide on possible extradition to France.

The food fraud consisted of selling horse meat as beef. It was discovered by Irish authorities detecting horse meat in beef burgers and affected more than a dozen countries in Europe. Hundreds of tons of horse meat were passed off as beef and put in pre-cooked meals such as lasagna, moussaka or chili.

Fasen, a Dutch trader, was sentenced to two years in prison and banned from working in the French meat industry by a Paris court earlier this year. Hendricus Windmeijer, who worked with Fasen, received a one-year suspended sentence.

Two former staff at a meat processing firm in France were also involved. Jacques Poujol, ex-director at Spanghero, was found guilty of fraud and given 24 months with 18 of these suspended. Patrice Monguillon, manager of the Spanghero factory in France, received a one-year suspended sentence.

Fasen had already been detained by Guardia Civil during Operation Gazel in July 2017 before being released pending a trial.

This action, with Europol, dismantled an organized crime group believed to be trading horse meat in Europe unfit for human consumption. It involved Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

In Spain, 65 people were arrested and charged with animal abuse, document forgery, perverting the course of justice, crimes against public health, money laundering and being part of a criminal organization.

Meat firms, frozen food, and fast-food companies were affected by the investigation. Animals came from Portugal and northern Spain, their meat was processed in a facility and sent to Belgium, which is one of the biggest horsemeat exporters in the European Union. The gang allegedly forged the animals’ identification by modifying microchips and documentation.