Police in Italy Busted a Major Antiquities Trafficking Ring, Seizing Some 3,500 Relics in the Process 

Twenty-one suspects faces charges of criminal conspiracy, theft, and the illegal export of goods. 

A member of the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage examining ancient ceramics during an investigation into an antiquities trafficking ring in Italy.

Police in Italy seized more than 3,500 ancient artifacts during a major bust of an international trafficking ring this week.  

Sixteen people across multiple locations were arrested, while five others remain at large. The suspects face charges that include criminal conspiracy, theft, and the illegal export of goods, according to Reuters. 

The investigation, which began last fall, was led by the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, a special unit dedicated to crimes involving art and antiquities. The probe led them to several sites in Southern Italy associated with the trafficking ring, including operational bases and illegal dig sites in the regions of Basilicata, Campania, and Puglia.

Surprise raids of these locations yielded ancient ceramics, jewelry, and bronze, gold, and silver coins dating from the 4th century B.C.E. to the 3rd century C.E. Authorities also recovered excavation tools like metal detectors and documentation of illicit transactions in Italy and abroad.

Among those involved in the elaborate criminal operation were grave robbers, fences, and exporters. The latter group is believed to have facilitated sales of illegally sourced relics to auction houses abroad.

In a statement, the Commander of the Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, Vincenzo Molinese, called his unit’s effort an “investigative success” that “demonstrates unequivocally how our territory still holds immeasurable treasures prey to grave robbers and unscrupulous traffickers.”

Italy’s Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, described the investigation as a “brilliant operation.” He added that the Ministry’s “database of illicitly stolen cultural assets,” thought to be the largest resource of its kind in the world, proved to be particularly helpful in this and other recent investigations, as the country has continued to crack down on illegal digs and antiquities sales.

 

More Trending Stories:  

A Sculpture Depicting King Tut as a Black Man Is Sparking International Outrage 

A Diver Discovered an 1,800-Year-Old Shipwreck off the Coast of Israel Containing a Trove of Marble Artifacts 

Where Does Art Stand Today? Here Are a Few Critical Impressions Gleaned at the Frieze New York Art Fair 

Greece Wins Back Hundreds of Stolen Artifacts From the Disgraced Dealer Robin Symes After a 17-Year Legal Battle 

Go Drinking With Art Advisors, Never Say ‘Nice to Meet You,’ and 33 Other Useful Things I’ve Learned as an Art-World Gossip Columnist 

Nearly $6 Million Was Just Raised to Help Preserve Nina Simone’s Childhood Home, Thanks to Venus Williams and Adam Pendleton 

A Philadelphia Man Paid $6,000 for Cracked Church Windows He Saw on Facebook. Turns Out They’re Tiffany—and Worth a Half-Million 

A Woman Bought Four Ceramic Plates at a Salvation Army for $8. They Turned Out to Be Original Picassos and Worth Over $40,000 

What I Buy and Why: Qatari Collector and Curator Mohammed Al Thani Scours the Globe for Works That Leave Him Breathless 


Follow Artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.

You are currently logged into this Artnet News Pro account on another device. Please log off from any other devices, and then reload this page continue. To find out if you are eligible for an Artnet News Pro group subscription, please contact [email protected]. Standard subscriptions can be purchased on the subscription page.

Log In