Spain’s Civil Guard working with Europol has sized more than 2,200 looted and valuable artifacts, mostly from ancient Egypt, as part of a major crackdown in Europe. In the operation 35 suspected traffickers were captured in total, consisting of Spaniards and Egyptians.The curator of Barcelona’s Egyptian museum, Luis Manuel Gonzálvez, told The Local that since the revolution in Egypt at the beginning of the Arab Spring, it has been far more difficult for authorities in that country to take care of the many valuable and ancient sites.
“Many artifacts have been taken from Egypt to Europe and the USA, but as the situation improves in Egypt, we are likely to see fewer incidents on this scale.”
The discovery formed part of a major operation launched in 14 countries in an effort to prevent further looting and illicit trafficking of cultural artifacts of this nature. These particular items were found hidden in a container load of cheap vases, shipped from Alexandria in Egypt to the Port of Valencia in Spain.
Guardia Civil recupera 36 piezas arqueológicas expoliadas en Egipto http://t.co/EzLxwJlqru No te pierdas la galería! pic.twitter.com/EkR0pDbPEq
— Europa Press (@europapress) January 28, 2015
According to police, some of the items were most likely looted from the Saqqara burial site and ruins, close to Mit Rahina in Egypt.
Among the 35 suspected traffickers found, the discovery of the looted items led Civil Guard officers to arrest of arrested five members of the network in Barcelona and Tortosa in Spain (four Egyptians and one Spanish) and two more in Egypt. The criminals will all now face several charges, including the trafficking of historic objects, being members of a criminal group and money laundering.
During the operation, agents have inspected several thousands of art and antique dealers, second-hand sellers and auction houses in 14 European countries, including Britain, France and Germany. Inspections have also been stepped up at border posts, ports and airports.
Besides the successful operation in Valencia, Spain, the Italian Government advised last week that their police had sized over 5,000 ancient artifacts as part of a $51 million haul after they dismantled a combined Swiss and Italian trafficking ring.