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French Tourists Face Upto 6 Years in Prison for Stealing 40kg Sardinian White Sand

The couple said they were unaware of a law that bars trade in sand, pebbles, and shells and can lead to fines of up to £2,750 (over Rs 2 lakh).

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Updated:August 21, 2019, 12:16 PM IST
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French Tourists Face Upto 6 Years in Prison for Stealing 40kg Sardinian White Sand
Image for representation purpose only / AP.
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A holidaying French couple could be jailed for six years for trying to smuggle out 40kg of Sardinia’s famed white sand in their car.

The couple said they were unaware of a law that bars trade in sand, pebbles, and shells and can lead to fines of up to £2,750 (over Rs 2 lakh).

The couple risk a jail term of between one and six years and a fine for aggravated theft after they were reported to a court in the city of Sassari, according to BBC and CNN.

Police in the northern city of Porto Torres 14 plastic bottles taken from the beach in Chia, southern Sardinia, in the boot of the couple’s SUV during routine checking of vehicles waiting to board a ferry to southern France.

Despite the couple insist they wanted to take the sand home as a "souvenir", police told CNN that signs in several languages on the island's beaches warn visitors against stealing the sand.

"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," CNN quoted a police officer as saying.

Residents and authorities are concerned over the disappearance of several tonnes of the island's precious sand disappear every year.

"Sandy beaches are one of the main attractions of Sardinia. 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.

"Only a fraction of the tourists visiting Sardinia spend their time digging up to 40kg of sand each. But if you multiply half that amount times 5% of the one million tourists per year, in a few years that would contribute significantly to the reduction of beaches - the main reason why tourists are attracted by the island of Sardinia."

Tourists often auction the stolen sand on online sites, according to BBC.

Last August, a UK resident was fined the equivalent of more than $1000 (over Rs 70,000) for stealing sand from a beach near the Northern city of Olbia.

A group of security inspectors from Sardinia's airports have created a Facebook page to campaign against the plundering of the island’s beaches.

"The purpose of the page is to raise public awareness about this problem," one of the page administrators had told CNN.

"During the last 20 years of activity we have seized tens and tens of tons of material [...] 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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