Couple face jail time for taking sand from Italian beach

Elias Hubbard
Августа 20, 2019

A French couple who tried to smuggle 90lb (40kg) of sand from the pristine beaches of Sardinia are facing six years in an Italian prison. The bottles were reportedly found in their trunk as they were about to board a ferry in Porto Torres leaving for Toulon, France.

They spotted some bottles filled with sand through the window of the vehicle, and arrested the couple, a man and woman in their 40s, police told CNN.

Police caught the pair with 14 plastic bottles packed with white sand from the beach in Chia, located in southern Sardinia, the BBC reported, citing Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

The tourists said the bottles were a souvenir and that they were oblivious to the country's strict laws on sand smuggling.

The couple face a jail term of between one and six years for the crime of theft with the aggravating circumstance of having stolen an asset of public utility.

Theft of white sand and rocks from Sardinia's beaches is very common, a police officer said, and there is an illegal market for them on the internet. There are two threats: "one is due to erosion, which is partly natural and partly induced by the increasing sea level due to climate change; the second is sand stealing by tourists", Pierluigi Cocco, a resident of the Sardinian capital, Cagliari, and environmental scientist, told the BBC.

Sand thieves are usually picked up at airports, in bag searches and by scanners.

A Facebook group has been set up by those attempting to raise awareness about the pilfering of Sardinia's beaches called Sardegna Rubata e Depredara - translated as "Sardinia, robbed and plundered".

"The goal of the page is to raise public awareness about this problem", one of the page administrators previously told CNN Travel.

Sand theft has been a longstanding problem: According to The Local, more than ten tons of beachfront dirt has been confiscated in the last decade from suitcases on outgoing flights from Olbia Airport. "Every year we take care to bring everything back to the places of origin at the end of the summer season".

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