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Ukrainian priest arrested for stealing ancient gold jewellery worth £52m

Artefacts smuggled out of Ukraine in 2016 and were allegedly put up for sale in Madrid

Stuti Mishra
Tuesday 24 October 2023 08:41 BST
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Spanish police seize ancient gold jewellery worth millions taken from Ukraine

A priest from Ukraine’s Orthodox Church has been arrested along with four others for stealing £52m of illegally obtained ancient jewellery.

The items consisted of 11 gold artefacts, including a belt, earrings and necklaces. They were smuggled out of Ukraine in 2016 and had allegedly been put up for sale in Madrid.

The gold is believed to be from the eighth and fourth centuries BC and to be a part of Ukraine’s national heritage.

Spanish police on Monday said they had made the arrests in connection with the case and had confiscated all the items.

According to authorities, the valuable items went missing from public display between 2009 and 2013 at an undisclosed museum in Kyiv.

The pieces were then transported out of Ukraine with the aid of forged documents falsely claiming affiliation with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Spanish law enforcement officers managed to seize an ornate gold belt in 2021, while the remaining artefacts were confiscated in recent weeks after attempts to sell them in the Spanish capital.

The police operation involved cooperation from various countries, including Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, North Macedonia and Ukraine.

Police said the arrests were made in recent weeks after attempts were allegedly made to sell the valuable items in Madrid.

The arrested individuals include two Ukrainians, one of whom is a member of the clergy and three Spaniards.

The artefacts are currently undergoing examination by Spain’s National Archaeological Museum and the country’s Cultural Heritage Institute.

The Scythians who dominated eastern Europe, including what is present-day Ukraine, were known for their metal work and artefacts and jewellery from the era are among Ukraine’s best-known historical heritage.

In a separate incident, Ukrainian authorities recovered 14 archaeological items allegedly stolen from areas occupied by Russia. A Russian man was arrested after attempting to smuggle them into the US.

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