ROME (XINHUA) - 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 (Aug 20).
The alleged theft took place in Sardinia, an island known for its picturesque beaches and where the two French citizens 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.
Stealing of sand, pebbles and shells from the Sardinan beaches is a common problem, and there are illegal markets to sell them online, CNN reported.
According to a protection law which came into effect in 2017, the pair could face a fine of up to US$3,300 (S$4,564) 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, authorities have seized nearly 10 tonnes of sand taken from Sardinia, the Local Italy reported.