Greek police bust gang that excavated, sold antiquities
Greek police said Wednesday they have broken up a major gang that illegally dug up thousands of antiquities and exported them for sale by conniving European auction houses or directly to private buyers.
|Gold jewellery, including butterfly-shaped pendants and a ring depicting the goddess Athena [Credit: Greek Police]|
Twenty-six suspects have been arrested so far, ranging from the alleged leaders to people believed to have been carrying out the illegal, nighttime excavations, police spokesman Haralambos Sfetsos said. They face criminal charges that carry prison terms of 5 to 25 years.
|Byzantine icons, cross, Cycladic figurine [Credit: Greek Police]|
|Medieval statues hidden in well in Nemea [Credit: Greek Police]|
Police said they confiscated more than 2,000 relics that were dug up in various parts of Greece, mostly coins from as early as the 6th century BC.
|Gold butterfly jewelry detail [Credit: Greek Police]|
|Gold plate [Credit: Greek Police]|
The antiquities were mostly sold online by auction houses based in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Britain. Police said the auctioneers knew about the illegal provenance of the artifacts and sometimes helped finance the gang.
|Part of the weapons cache with coins, antiquities, cash and counterfeit plates [Credit: Greek Police]|
|Weapons, ammunition, antique pistol, swords [Credit: Greek Police]|
"For very many of the coins we have full documentation, starting from when they were discovered in the earth to the auction at which they were sold," police spokesman Sfetsos told The Associated Press.
|Bronze arrowheads [Credit: Greek Police]|
|Bronze animal figurine [Credit: Greek Police]|
Police said the smuggling ring appeared to have been active for at least 10 years, targeting areas near — or even inside — known ancient sites and sometimes using satellite imagery to pinpoint potential locations.
The antiquities allegedly were smuggled out of Greece by the gang's leaders, who often delivered them in person to auction houses. They were auctioned off with fake documents that presented them as belonging to private European collections.
When two of the alleged ringleaders were arrested Sunday at the Greek-Bulgarian border, they allegedly were carrying nearly 1,000 coins and small artifacts concealed in the bumper of their car.
Author: Nicholas Paphitis | Source: The Associated Press [October 06, 2016]