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Couple Face Six Years in Prison For Stealing Sand From Beach In Italy

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I think we have all been guilty of taking a souvenir home from the beach. A perfect seashell, rock glass or even a sample of white sand to help us remember our holiday. But the urge backfired on a French couple, who are facing up to six years in prison for removing sand from a beach in Sardinia while on vacation. 

The Italian island's white sand is highly protected, and tourists face fines and even jail time for removing it from local beaches. The couple who took the sand did not realize it was against the law but did however take nearly 90 pounds of it. 

sand stolen from beach
Police seized 14 bottles containing around 88 pounds of sand. (Guardia di Finanza)

For years residents have complained about tourists stealing natural assets including the sand. 

The couple now face a jail term of between one and six years for the crime of theft of a public utility.

Under a 2017 law, the trade in sand, pebbles and shells is illegal, and usually punishable with fines of up to $3300.

Police discovered the sand in 14 plastic bottles in the trunk of an SUV belonging to the couple. They were about to board a ferry in Porto Torres heading to Toulon, France, reports say.

Beach in Sardinia
Beach in Sardinia, Italy

Police told CNN that the tourists said they were unaware of the laws about removing sand, but noted that the island's beaches have signs in several languages informing visitors.

Tourism theft of the white sand and rocks from Sardinia's beaches is very common, a police officer said, and there is an illegal market for them on the internet.

"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."

In 1994, access to the renowned pink beach on Budelli island to the north-east of Sardinia was banned amid concerns about its future. Tourists can visit the island on a day trip but can't walk on the pink sand or swim to it. Prior to the ban, it's estimated that thousands of pounds of the pink sand was being stolen annually. 

The only person allowed to live on the island is a 77-year-old caretaker Mauro Morandi.

Pink sand
Pink Beach - Budelli Island

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