Sardinian sand theft: French tourists face jail term

Panorama of the beaches of Chia Sardinia Italy

Panorama of the beaches of Chia Sardinia Italy

The French couple were found to have almost 40kg (90lb) of fine white sand in the boot of their auto.

The couple told police that they had no idea they were breaking the law, but they now face between one and six years in jail.

Over the last 10 years, authorities have seized almost 10 tons of sand taken from the Mediterranean island's shores, Local Italy reported.

The sand was found in 14 large plastic bottles and had been taken from a beach near Chia in southern Sardinia.

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.

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.

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Tourists, mainly Europeans and including some Italians, bottle the sand up to then auction on online sites.

"The people of Sardinia are very angry with tourists that steal shells and sand, because it's a theft (from) future generations that also puts at risk a delicate environment", the officer told CNN. "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". Almost three million tourists visit the semiautonomous region each year.

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.

Sardinia's colorful sands, considered a public good, are protected from plundering tourists with a law that came into effect in August 2017, according to the BBC.

But Sardinia isn't the only place dealing with the sand smugglers: Hawaii has long struggled with tourists removing sand from its beaches. Fines in the USA state can reach up to $100,000. The sand was earmarked for a resort under construction, the Guardian reported, and police believe that it was taken to sell under the table to competing developments.

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