Couple who stole sand from Sardinia beach face up to six years in jail

French holidaymakers say they didn’t know they were breaking the law

Helen Coffey
Tuesday 20 August 2019 09:13 BST
French couple could be jailed for six years for taking sand from Sardinia

A couple on holiday in Sardinia face up to six years in jail after they stole some sand as a souvenir.

The Italian island’s white-sand beaches are highly protected, with harsh penalties for those who try to remove any sand – from one to six years in jail for theft with the aggravating circumstance of having stolen an asset of public utility.

The French couple were caught with 14 plastic bottles full of sand, weighing 40kg, in the boot of their car.

They claim to have not known the practice was forbidden and had no idea they were committing an offence when they removed the sand from Chia in the south of Sardinia.

The pair were about to board a ferry from Porto Torres to Toulon, France, according to local media.

Some tourists take Sardinian sand to sell online, which is illegal and has been punishable by fines of up to €3,000 since 2017.

Although taking sand from a beach may not sound like a big issue, local scientists say that the practice is extremely detrimental.

Sardinian environmental scientist Pierluigi Cocco told the BBC that Sardinia’s sandy beaches, one of its main attractions, are under threat from both erosion and tourists removing the sand.

“Only a fraction of the tourists visiting Sardinia spend their time digging up to 40kg of sand each,” he said. “But if you multiply half that amount times 5 per cent of the one million tourists per year, in a few years that would contribute significantly to the reduction of beaches.”

It’s not the first time a tourist has been caught red-handed.

In August last year, a 40-year-old Italian man who lives in the UK was fined €1,000 after police caught him in possession of a bottle of sand from Gallura beach on Sardinia’s north coast.

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