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Spanish-based gang smuggled 4m euros worth of baby eels 

Police have detected an illegal network of baby eel smugglers which is thought to have netted more than four million euros.

The gang is believed to have hidden elvers measuring just a few centimetres by packing them into suitcases and using human “mules” to get them through customs.

The “angulas” are considered a great delicacy across Spain and Asia and have rocketed both in demand and price because of overfishing and changes in the ocean habitat.

The transparent worm-like creatures are also known as glass eels. They are considered aphrodisiacs but many top chefs have banned them from their menus amid calls for them to be made an endangered species.

Officers think the network was responsible for smuggling more than 2.5 tons of elvers.

Eight people have so far been arrested and aother three investigated.

The investigation was centred on Spain after police received a tip-off that a house near Madrid airport was being used for hiding and conserving the live eels.

Seizures worth one million euros were later made at a number of Spanish airports and also in Hong Kong.

“Gang members were buying the elvers from different parts of Spain and later used false documents to disguise the origin and nature of the product in order to export large quantities to Asian countries,” said a spokesman for the Civil Guard.