Archive for July 5th, 2018

European police seize 25,000 trafficked artifacts

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

” 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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