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Tattoo alert as police seize thousands of bottles of unauthorised ink 

page 15 Tattoo alert one

Police in the Canary Islands have smashed a huge network which cashed in on the body tattoo craze by using unauthorised inks lacking health and safety checks.

So far, 43 people have either been investigated or arrested in connection with the scam and around 4,000 unautho-rised ink containers seized.

Officers have not specified whether there is any health risk to those who received tattoos with the illegal products but they have sent out a warning to urge people only to use properly registered salons.

The Spanish Tax Agency says the ink was smuggled into the Canaries and was being used in a number of the islands, including Tenerife and Gran Canaria, visited by millions of Brits every year.

“Those detained and investigated allegedly used and distributed cans of tattoo inks not authorised by the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products,” said a police spokesman.

They are now facing prosecution for various crimes against public health, contraband and possible tax irregularities.

The arrests were made as part of an operation codena-med “Eternal Ink” after police searched a man on a ferry heading for Fuerteventura from Gran Canaria and found 16 cans of ink tattoo that were not on the list of officially approved products.

Health and tax officials were called in and raids were carried out at a tattoo shop in Las Palmas, where the owner is alleged to be the main distributor around the Canaries.

More than 1,000 cans of the unauthorised ink were found in a secret room in his house and he and two others were arrested.

Further investigations revealed that only one of the tattoo parlours where more unofficial ink was found had told their clients about the non-listed product. This was made clear on a consent sheet customers have to sign.

“On these consent sheets, the client is advised of the risks of the technique and of the inks and accepts them,” said the police spokesman. “This consent is regulated and is a subject taught at the School of Health and Social Services of the Canary Islands.”

Raids have been carried out in Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.

In Tenerife, 12 businesses were inspected, with 14 people investigated and approximately 850 ink containers seized.

Eight raids were carried out in Gran Canaria, with ten people investigated and 629 unauthorised ink cans discovered. One tattoo shop suspected of using the ink to print documents has been provisionally closed down.

In Fuerteventura, eight businesses were inspected, where 290 ink containers were found and several people investigated.

And in Lanzarote, seven locations have been inspected, eight people investigated and approximately 400 containers intervened.

Police say the ink was smuggled in to the Canaries using false labelling and receipts, as well as bogus addresses.

Inks for tattooing in Spain are subject to tough regulations and checks and are regularly updated on an authoristed list which evaluates their safety, including toxicity levels.

“These are fundamental aspects to ensure the safety of the product and that its use does not represent a risk to health before being authorised and used by consumers,” say the police.

The Canary Health Service says anyone thinking about a tattoo should never go to someone’s home or a nightclub or bar.

They must ensure the tattoo artist is licensed and works under proper conditions, using sterile products and ink which is authorised and individually packed.

They should also be informed of any possible risks or complications and given a receipt in the event of any possible future claim.