The criminal enterprise is believed to have begun in early 2013, and continued until the meat ring was smashed in July of this year. During this period, they are alleged to have misappropriated around 115 tons of frozen meat from a refrigerated warehouse in Leibnitz in Styria, close to the border with Slovenia.
According to a police report made public on Wednesday, the owners of the meat sustained losses of several hundred thousands of euros.
A 38-year-old employee of Slovenian origin is suspected to have stolen the meat from the meat processing plant where he worked.
It is alleged that from January 2013 until July 2014, he was responsible for preparing frozen pork on pallets for unauthorized transport by an associate.
The associate, a 33-year-old trader, then took the meat to a car park on the main highway B67, where it was transferred to a smaller refrigerated truck. The latter vehicle, driven by a 57-year-old Slovenian man, then crossed the border to Slovenia, where the pork was illegally sold.
District police inspector Jürgen Ploder related that the meat was only noticed to be missing in July 2014. "Staff noticed that they suddenly lacked meat for processing. After conducting an inventory, it was found that 115 tons were missing. Thereupon, the company's director filed a complaint", he said.
"Suspicion fell immediately on the 38-year-old man, because as the supervisor he was alone for at least an hour each morning in the meat processing plant."
Earlier in July, in an unrelated incident, two men are believed to have stolen a giant sausage from a market stall in Tyrol.
On July 24, the police managed to arrest the 33-year-old trader and the 57-year-old Slovenian while transferring meat in the parking lot. They were able to seize about two tons of pork and a sum of cash. The 38-year-old worker was arrested at his workplace.
The three men were said to have made a full confession at their initial hearings. They were taken to the Jakomini prison to await trial.