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Police over in Spain have seized hundreds of stuffed animals belonging to endangered and protected species worth €29 million (£24m).
Authorities have described the haul as one of the largest and most expensive ever to be confiscated in Europe.
They confirmed that two people are being formally investigated as part of an ongoing operation, codenamed Valcites.
The Civil Guard in Valencia, which led the operation, have not named the suspects, although they did confirm one has been identified as a well-known businessman based in the east coast Spanish province.
A total of 1,090 stuffed animals were uncovered, 405 of which are covered by CITES, the multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals.
Detectives released images of some of the stuffed animals over the weekend, showing a variety of endangered, critically endangered and even extinct species, which include a snow leopard, Bengal tiger and scimitar oryx.
They also found nearly 200 large elephant Ivory tusks, as well as a cheetah, lion, polar bear, and white rhinoceros, among others.
Speaking about the enquiry, the Valencian law enforcement agency said: “The Civil Guard, as part of Operation Valcites, is investigating one person on suspicion of a crime of contraband and another on suspicion of an offence against the protection of flora and fauna in the municipality of Betera in the province of Valencia.
“Officers have located a warehouse in Betera where 1,090 stuffed animal specimens were being kept.
“Of these 405 are covered by CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
“Some became extinct in the wild like the scimitar oryx or are critically endangered like the addax or the Bengal tiger.
“Other specimens included the Cheetah, leopard, lion, polar bear, snow leopard and white rhinoceros.
“Among the items discovered were 198 large elephant Ivory tusks.
“The value of the items confiscated comes to around £24 million.”
The unnamed businessman, said to be a member of a well-known family working in the construction industry, is understood to have been present during the search with his lawyer.
The search and confiscation operation was carried out on a plot of land believed to be where the businessman lives.
While this part of the process took place on Wednesday, 6 April, police only made their first official comment this weekend, 9 April.
No one has yet been formally charged over the haul and the investigation is ongoing.
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Featured Image Credit: Spanish Guardia Civil
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