Ancient artifacts recovered in Europol crackdown

January 24, 2017 10:30 pm

A handout picture released on January 23, 2017 by Spanish Guardia Civil shows ancient coins recovered during Operation Pandora. (Photo by AFP)

The European police agency says police from 18 countries have impounded more than 3,500 stolen works of art and ancient artifacts of “great cultural importance” in an operation across the continent.  
The seized items included a marble Ottoman tombstone, a post-Byzantine icon depicting Saint George and hundreds of coins, EU police Europol said. 
The multinational campaign, dubbed Operation Pandora, took place last October and November and resulted in the recovery of 3561 pieces and 75 arrests. 
It was led by investigators from Spain and Cyprus with support from 16 other countries, UNESCO and Interpol.
“The aim of Operation Pandora was to dismantle criminal networks involved in cultural theft and exploitation, and identify potential links to other criminal activities,” Europol said. 
Officials of the Hague-based agency said the total value of the recovered artifacts is unknown as experts had yet to appraise it.
Around 500 illegal artifacts were recovered in Murcia, southeastern Spain, including 19 coins which had been stolen from the city’s Archaeological Museum in 2014.
Cypriot police said in a statement that 40 ancient artifacts had been recovered by post office officials in Larnaca, Cyprus.
The Cypriot police said all airports, post offices and checkpoints to and from Turkish section of the island were monitored.
“From a total of 44 searches conducted in homes and premises throughout Cyprus, 1,383 artifacts and 13 metal detectors were found and seized,” they said. 

A handout picture released on January 23, 2017 by Spanish Guardia Civil shows a policeman displaying a piece of archaeology recovered in a joint operation by police from 18 European countries. (Photo by AFP)

Daesh terrorists, fighting in Iraq and Syria, have plundered the museums and sites holding ancient treasures from the Middle East. Many of the artifacts stolen by Daesh are reportedly headed to to be sold to international dealers.
Turkey is the main transit route for foreign-backed militants traveling to Syria and Iraq to topple the governments there.  
Spanish and Cypriot law enforcement agencies reportedly carried out police inspections on some 50 ships and over 29,000 vehicles, in addition to more than 48,500 people.
Police also monitored internet sites, art galleries and even scuba-diving schools in their hunt for illicit artifacts, media reported.
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