European police seize 25,000 trafficked artifacts

” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>A coordinated sting of an antiquities trafficking operation executed in four European countries has resulted in the seizure of 25,000 ancient artifacts worth an estimated 40 million euros ($46 million). The pre-dawn action saw more than 250 law enforcement officers raid 40 different locations in Italy, Spain, Britain and Germany, and arrest 23 individuals.

This is the culmination of four years of investigation into a major smuggling ring that began with the discovery of a looted archaeological site in the small town of Riesi in the Caltanissetta area of central Sicily. Before the coordinated raids, Italian authorities confiscated 3,000 artifacts, 1,200 forgeries and 1,500 tools of the looting trade including metal detectors.

The stolen artifacts, mostly coins, statues and pottery, all seem to have been illegally excavated in and around Caltanissetta which has a rich Greek, Punic and Roman history. From there, the objects were smuggled up the boot of Italy, out of the country to Germany where they were sold with ginned up ownership histories. Police searched locations in Sicily, Calabria, Piedmont and Apulia, one the largest crackdowns on heritage crime in Italian history.

Europol, which financed the meetings between each country’s forces, said that key facilitators in the trafficking ring were “also acting from Barcelona and London, coordinating the supply chain and providing technical support”.

Metropolitan Police officers acting on a European arrest warrant issued by Italian magistrates Wednesday arrested the art dealer, Thomas William Veres, 64, in London, a Carabinieri paramilitary police spokesman told a news conference.[…]

The Sicilian smuggling operation is alleged to have been masterminded by Francesco Lucerna, 76, another of those arrested Wednesday.

Mr Lucerna regularly dispatched stolen archaeological remains to northern Italy through a network of couriers where they allegedly made contact with Mr Veres’ gang, investigators believe.

The gang also set up workshops where teams of counterfeiters copied some of the archaeological remains and sold replica copies as originals, it is alleged.

The investigation into the vast operation is still ongoing. The two auction houses in Munich which regularly received and sold the smuggled artifacts are under investigation as well.

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4 Comments »

Comment by Trevor
2018-07-06 04:12:10

Ah, ‘art dealer’ or ‘art fence’, I wonder? A good kick up his arts may well be overdue.

 
Comment by Barbara JH Austin
2018-07-06 13:26:02

From art-crime.blogspot.com:
“William Thomas Veres has been previously arrested in Spain on August 16, 2017 on an unrelated trafficking case via an extradition warrant from Italy for the alleged theft of antiquities and cultural heritage objects. Veres was also given a suspended sentence of one year and ten months imprisonment for his role in a November 09, 1995, U.S. Customs seizure of a $1.2 million fourth century BCE gold phiale used for pouring libations sold on to Art Collector Michael Steinhardt.”

Get a rope.

 
Comment by Doc.Gonzo :skull:
2018-07-06 23:12:31

Sadly its just the tip of the iceberg..
Ask yourself why you can mostly found Apulian or Magna Graecia pottery on 90% of auction houses auctions!
What was looted from the early and the end of XX century and even before, its what you will find on the market even now!
Greece, Italy, Eastern Europe, same old story..
At that time backgrounds of those items then were lawful?
I hate those who have made these things a market, they are guilty if people have start to loot and sold priceless pieces of history of their country for 2 pennies!
And this now happens in other country like Siria, Iraq and the whole middle east!
Never seen so many antiquities from those country on the market like now!
And mostly of those items comes from UK, where these objects are often cleaned and recycled!
Even ISIS has learned to find and sell these objects to finance themselves!
Damned albionics, them are always behind there!
Lets deny it but thats it..

 
Comment by Trevor
2018-07-09 04:58:49

The ‘albionics’ are not behind it at all, it is always the final buyer who is creating the void in which the crims will leap.

Why would I want an Egyptian pot, when I could go see one at a museum, who will at the same time dust it and allow others to research it? If I wanted to feel one, I could spend my earning time on a dig.

 
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