This is the result of a four-year long investigation.
The gendarmerie announced on Friday the dismantling of a network of glass eels traffickers between France and Asia, where this eel fry is sold at a high price.
It had just exported more than 46 tonnes of this endangered species, representing 18.5 million euros.
The long work of the Bordeaux customs and the Central Office for the fight against attacks on the environment and public health (Oclaesp) has led to the indictment of a dozen people in France and Spain.
Investigators have drawn the thread of two seizures made in 2017 by customs officials of Arcachon (Gironde) and Roissy of 792 kg and 200 kg of glass eels - called "pibals" in the southwest - of contraband, a species whose European population has fallen by 75% in 30 years.
So much so that it has been considered threatened since the 2000s.
Between 3,000 and 4,000 euros per kilo in China
The merchandise was intended to be exported illegally to China and Thailand, where glass eels sell for between 3,000 and 4,000 euros per kg on the black market, up to ten times more expensive than the selling price in Europe.
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The judicial customs of Bordeaux establish that the same network of traffickers is hiding behind these two seizures and join their investigations to those of Oclaesp and the nautical brigade of Saintes (Charentes Maritime) who are also working on this traffic.
The investigation group discovers that the glass eels collected by French wholesalers are transported to Spain and then "forwarded to Asian countries with a strong demand for this product, notably via logistics platforms set up in Eastern countries (Romania). , Bulgaria, Poland) ”, details the national gendarmerie.
Shrimp and carp were actually glass eels
"Police cooperation at European level, via Europol, (was) decisive in tackling this international trafficking", underlines the press release.
The goods, 46 tonnes of illegally exported elvers, were masked "by the use of false documents implying the sending of other species (shrimps, conger eels, carp, etc.)".
This juicy traffic, nicknamed "white gold", allowed the network to launder 18.5 million euros according to the survey, which demonstrated "the use of shell companies created in Europe and in tax havens (Ireland , Panama), the complicity of companies established in China and Thailand and the use of retro-commissions through contracts on operations between Africa and Asia ”.
Nine French wholesalers and intermediaries were indicted in September 2019 then, this year, the Spanish managers of a transport company as well as one of the heads of the network, also Spanish.