In an international operation named “Pandora”, aimed at criminal networks involved in cultural theft, conducted in nearly 20 European countries from both inside and outside the EU 3561 works of art and cultural goods were seized by the authorities.
The operation, which took place during October and November last year, involved Europol, law enforcement authorities from 18 countries, Interpol, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), and the World Customs Organisation (WCO). Authorities checked 48588 individuals, 29340 vehicles, and 50 ships. This resulted in arrest of 75 people and opening 92 new investigations.
A total of 3561 works of art and cultural items were recovered, about half of which were archaeological objects. In Spain, only in the city of Murcia authorities recovered 500 artefacts, of which 19 items had been stolen from an archaeological museum. Moreover, more than 400 coins from throughout history were found through “suspicious online advertisements”. In Cyprus alone, police and customs seized 1383 ancient artefacts and 12 metal detectors during 44 searches in homes and other establishments across the island. Forty ancient objects were located at the post office in Larnaca. According to Europol, several of the retrieved artefacts are of great cultural importance in the archaeological world, such as a marble Ottoman tombstone and a post-Byzantine icon depicting Saint George, along with two Byzantine artefacts. All of them were seized in Greece during actions carried out by Greek police.
(after Cyprus Mail, Europol & BBC News)