British police arrested three men Thursday in connection with a Europe-wide scandal in which horsemeat was passed off as beef.

Police in Wales said the arrests, on suspicion of fraud offences, occurred at two plants that were inspected earlier this week by the U.K.'s Food Standards Agency.

Police said two men — aged 64 and 42 — were arrested at Farmbox Meats near Aberystwyth, in Wales, while a 63-year-old man was arrested at the Peter Boddy Slaughterhouse in Todmorden, West Yorkshire.

On Tuesday, the Food Standards Agency had "detained" all meat on the premises and seized paperwork and customer lists from the two plants.   Pan-European police agency Europol is coordinating a continent-wide fraud investigation amid allegations of an international criminal conspiracy to substitute horse for more expensive beef.

French minister blames wholesaler

Benoit Hamon France's economy minister accused the French meat wholesaler Spanghero of fraudulently labeling horsemeat as beef.

Hamon said Spanghero officials were fully aware that the cheaper horsemeat was mislabeled. The agriculture minister said the company has been immediately suspended.

A French investigation has found that the horsemeat scandal has spread to involve 13 countries and 28 companies.

Hamon said a total of about 680 tonnes of horsemeat was involved.

He said Spanghero had received a shipment of horsemeat from a Dutch middleman and passed it off as beef upon reselling it to a frozen food processor.

He also said the meat processor, Comigel, should have realized the problem as soon as the meat was thawed if they had not already noticed the questionable paperwork.