Tourists face six years' jail after 'stealing from pristine beach'

Two tourists could face jail time after allegedly stealing 40kg of sand from a pristine Italian beach.

It’s alleged the pair stole the sand from Chia beach on the southern Italian island of Sardinia, the Guardian reports.

The sand was allegedly placed in 14 plastic bottles and the pair were arrested as they were boarding a ferry for Toulon in France’s south.

Chia beach on Italy's island of Sardinia. Two French tourists allegedly stole 40kg of sand from the beach.
It's alleged two French tourists stole sand from Chia beach, Sardinia. Source: Getty Images (file pic)

The pair reportedly told police they didn’t realise they had committed an offence and wanted the sand as a souvenir.

According to Italian news site Corriere Della Sera, the pair, identified as French tourists, could face between one to six years’ jail.

A law was introduced in 2017 to protect the island’s habitat with fines for stealing sand and shells over $5000 the BBC reports.

People have been known to steal the sand, bottle it and then try to sell it on eBay.

The bottles of 90kg of stolen sand from Sardinia seized by Italian authorities.
More than 90kg of stolen sand from Italy's island of Sardinia. Facebook/ Sardegna Rubata e Depredata

Pierluigi Cocco, an environmental scientist and Sardinian resident, told the BBC the theft of sand is one of the two main threats to the island.

The other is erosion, he said.

"Only a fraction of the tourists visiting Sardinia spend their time digging up to 40kg of sand each,” Mr Cocco told the BBC.

“But if you multiply half that amount times 5 per cent of the one million tourists per year, in a few years that would contribute significantly to the reduction of beaches - the main reason why tourists are attracted by the island of Sardinia."