Looted antiquities worth millions recovered from black market by Italian police

More than 300 looted antiquities, estimated to be worth more than EUR15 million, were displayed to the press this morning in Rome, having been repatriated to Italy after they were discovered in a warehouse in Switzerland.

It was a scene slightly reminiscent of a Victorian detective novel, in which the robber and his looted candlesticks is unveiled before an impressed gathering of country house guests.



Only today's unveiling took place inside the Colosseum rather than on the pages of a 19th century novel and while there was no criminal present, there was plenty of loot, which consisted of objects such as Etruscan ceramic vases, bronze statues from Sardinia and frescoes from Pompeii – 337 objects in total.



A investigation, code-named Andromeda, led by the carabinieri and the Swiss authorities, discovered about 20,000 artefacts in the free port of Geneva, stored in warehouses that were associated with an unnamed Japanese dealer.



The artefacts were illegally taken from archaeological sites in Lazio, Puglia, Sardinia and the area of Magna Grecia – southern Italy and Sicily. They span a period off 1,200 years, dating from the eighth century BC to the fourth AD.



According to Dr Giuseppe Proietti, superintendent for archaeological heritage in Rome, this is one of the most important recoveries of looted antiquities in recent times. He said: "This is one of the most significant recoveries of our national heritage to this day. We hope to return these artefacts to their original localities so that they can be displayed within their historical contexts."



When the Swiss authorities and the Italian carabinieri began to investigate in 2008, the story developed dramatically in a way that could lead to a sequel of The Medici Conspiracy, a factual book that pieces together the circumstances of the Medici antiquities scandal.



Their attention was initially drawn to the British art dealer Robin Symes, who curated the sale of the Venus of Morgantina to the Getty Museum in Malibù. According to the Italian carabinieri, Symes moved to Switzerland, where his activities were monitored. The Swiss and Italian team then discovered several sham companies, some of which were based in tax havens.



Further inquiries led the authorities to a company administrator in Basle who was involved in managing trafficked archaeological objects for his clients – one of whom was Mr Symes, say the Italian carabinieri.



When the carabinieri searched the administrator's luxurious villa in Basle, they found extensive documentation detailing antiquities that were illegally taken from sites around Italy. The documents indicated that Geneva's free port was used as a clearing centre for the illicitly imported artefacts. In December 2008, nine properties and warehouses were sequestered. This is where the 20,000 archaeological artefacts were discovered.



It took the authorities the whole of 2009 to catalogue the antiquities. The 337 objects repatriated back to Italy have been proved to be from illicit Italian excavations. The majority of the objects remain under Swiss jurisdiction.



From Medici to Italy: Repatriation for Boscoreale Fresco and Corinthian Vase

Top 10 Scottish Artefacts Abroad

'Bring Them Back' campaign takes Big Ben Clock hostage

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine