Looted Items from War Zones Seized From Geneva Freeport

Some of the antiquities were shipped from Qatar.

One of the looted items seized by Swiss authorities. Geneva Prosecutors Office
One of the looted items seized by Swiss authorities. Geneva Prosecutors Office

Swiss prosecutors have revealed that they discovered looted artifacts, including objects from Palmyra in Syria, as well as from Yemen and Libya, stored at the Geneva Freeport in 2013.

According to Swiss authorities the items traveled from Qatar to Switzerland and were then deposited in the Geneva Freeport in 2009-10. It was years later, in 2013, that suspicions as to the origin of the objects were first raised during a customs inspection, according to AFP.

Customs then contacted the Swiss cultural authorities in Bern whose expert confirmed that the items were indeed genuine. The goods—which included objects from the third and fourth Centuries—were seized and criminal proceedings followed.

To highlight their efforts to become more transparent regarding freeports—where people store items tax free with few questions asked—the Swiss prosecutors have now announced the case and released images of the recovered items.

A number of incidents of fraud and scandal have been linked to items stored in freeports recently have meant the Swiss authorities have had to become more open than they have been in the past.

The selling of looted items has been estimated to serve as a major source of income for groups such as ISIS who held and publicly looted and damaged the ancient city and UNESCO world heritage site of Palmyra from May 2015 until March 2016.

The confiscated objects include a head of Aphrodite from Libya, two funereal bas-reliefs and a head of a priest stemming from Palmyra, and five artifacts from Yemen.

The United Nations placed the ancient sites of Sanaa and Shibam in Yemen on their list of endangered World Heritage sites in 2015 after Sanaa sustained considerable damage during conflict between Iran-supported rebels and the Saudi-backed government of Yemen.

Ahead of being returned to their countries of origin the objects will go on public view at the Geneva Museum of Art and History.


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