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Tourists Face Jail Over Odd Crime: Sand Theft

French couple caught taking white sand from beach in Sardinia
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 20, 2019 10:35 AM CDT
People enjoy the white sand and pristine waters of Chia beach on the Italian island of Sardinia.   (AP Photo/Karl A.Ritter)

(Newser) – A French couple who visited the Italian island of Sardinia swear they just wanted to bring home a reminder of their visit. Now they're facing possible jail time as a result, reports the Local. Their offense? Alleged sand theft. And not just a thimbleful: Authorities confiscated 90 pounds of sand in their vehicle, stuffed into 14 plastic bottles, as the couple tried to get on a ferry back to France. If they catch a judge in a bad mood, the couple could get one to six years in jail because, as it turns out, sand theft is a thing in Sardinia. In fact, so many tourists have been walking away with the stuff that the island passed a law in 2017 outlawing the trade in sand, shells, and the like, reports the BBC.

"Sandy beaches are one of the main attractions of Sardinia," a local environmentalist explains. These beaches face the natural threat of erosion and the not-so-natural threat of thieving tourists, he says. If even 5% of the annual 1 million visitors indulged at even half the rate of the French couple, "that would contribute significantly to the reduction of beaches—the main reason why tourists are attracted by the island of Sardinia." The Local cites a growing international trade in Sardinian sand and shells, with sellers often popping up on sites such as eBay. (Read more weird crimes stories.)

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