By smuggling the protected species, the suspects defrauded the state budget of more than HRK 11 million and split at least HRK 700,000 among themselves, according to the police and USKOK.
Gathering sea cucumbers is banned in Croatia while gathering sea urchins requires permission from the competent government department. Sea urchins and date shells are strictly protected species in Croatia.
Although they were aware that these were protected species, some of the suspects engaged in gathering sea urchins and sea cucumbers near Split, Kaštela, Trogir and Šolta island, using professional diving equipment, while two gathered date shells.
They transported a certain quantity of sea urchins and sea cucumbers to Zadar and Biograd and the rest to warehouses in Kaštel Stari and Knin. In the warehouses, they packed them in plastic containers for further illegal transport to Italy. They also used the warehouses to process sea urchin roe and pack it in jars.
The sea cucumbers, sea urchins and roe were smuggled to Italy for sale on the illegal market.
The suspects sold at least 19,000 kg of sea cucumber on the black market in Croatia and Italy for at least HRK 30 per kg, 3,520 kg of sea urchins for HRK 25 per kg, 62 kg of sea urchin roe for HRK 800 per kg, and 6.35 kg of date shells for HRK 250 per kg.
Prosecutors recommended that the Split-Dalmatia County Court investigating judge order investigative custody for 11 suspects.
(€1 = HRK 7.5)
For more news about Croatia, click here.