EU seizes 18K stolen artefacts including Egyptian pieces
By: Mustafa Marie
Thu, Aug. 8, 2019
CAIRO - 8 August 2019: Pandora 3, organized by the European Union Law Enforcement Cooperation Agency to eliminate the trafficking of stolen artefacts, seized 18,000 stolen items and arrested 59 people.
Among the pieces seized by the multinational operation, Pandora 3, is an ancient cylindrical seal from Mesopotamia. It is a 15th-century Bible that was stolen in Germany more than 25 years ago along with 109 ancient coins.
Most of the stolen items are artifacts, coins, paintings, musical instruments and sculptures from European countries; however, more than 30 pieces from non-European countries such as Colombia, Egypt, Iraq and Morocco have been found.
Items that could facilitate the trade of cultural goods, such as metal detectors, were also confiscated.
Since a large proportion of looted items are being sold via social media platforms and websites, Pandora also included an "electronic patrol week" organized by the Dutch police authorities. This revealed 169 suspicious websites, leading to the confiscation of 682 pieces.
The arrests were the result of a series of immediate secret checks conducted from Oct. 22 to 30, 2018. During this period, secret police officers from all 29 participating countries inspected auction houses, art galleries, airports, archaeological sites and private residences, arresting 59 individuals and issuing more than 100 administrative penalties.
Pandora is considered an EU law enforcement agency coordinated by the Spanish Civil Guard and the World Customs Organization. In 2017, Pandora I resulted in 75 arrests and the recovery of over 3,500 items. In 2018, Operation Pandora 2 resulted in 51 arrests and the retrieval of more than 41,000 items.
According to The Art newspaper, Pandora is one of many modern processes that combat trafficking in culturally precious materials. In 2018, Operation Demetra recovered some 25,000 objects, mostly from ancient tombs from Sicily, and resulted in 23 arrests in the past two decades.
Certain sectors of the antiquities market are increasingly being used as a means of money laundering for organized crime and terrorist groups.
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