Italian cops bust antiquity traffickers

Sept. 20, 2007 at 2:10 PM
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ROME, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Police have foiled a scheme to sell millions of dollars worth of artifacts plundered from historic sites throughout Italy.

Investigators prevented a group of art traffickers from selling the stolen property, which included thousands of priceless objects bought from tomb raiders, the Italian news agency ANSA reported Thursday.

The coins, lamps, funerary objects and other ancient artifacts were believed to have been transported through the Republic of San Marino, where they were assigned fake provenance documents.

Among the 26 people charged in the operation was a 60-year-old Italian dealer from England who was caught just as he was about to cross the Italian border into Austria.

"This is an amazing haul and proof that we are intensifying our efforts to stamp out illicit trading in antiquities," said General Ugo Zottin, head of the Carabinieri's special unit for protecting Italy's cultural heritage.

"We got to the traffickers as they were about to move the objects through various outlets in Verona, Bolzano and Rimini -- some of them quite respectable establishments."

The first trial of a U.S. antiquities curator charged with selling stolen Italian artifacts is currently underway in Rome.

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