ROME • A French couple may spend up to six years behind bars for taking around 40kg of white sand from an Italian beach, local media reported on Tuesday.
The alleged theft took place in Sardinia, an island known for its picturesque beaches, where the couple had been on vacation.
Police discovered 14 plastic bottles packed with white sand in their car as they were about to board a ferry leaving for Toulon, France, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported. Theft of sand, pebbles and shells from Sardinian beaches is a common problem, and there are illegal markets to sell them online, CNN reported.
According to a law which came into effect in 2017, the pair could face a fine of up to US$3,300 (S$4,600), and between one and six years' imprisonment.
The couple, both in their 40s, claimed that they were unaware of the law, and were taking the sand home to keep as a souvenir.
But police say there are signs on the beaches in multiple languages alerting visitors to the regulations.
Over the past decade, the authorities have seized nearly 10 tonnes of sand taken from Sardinia, the Local Italy news site reported.