Friday, 25 July 2014

Controversial Archaeologist Sentenced in Macedonia

I am surprised certain US and UK observers of the antiquities market have not spotted this one yet, it seems the sort of stuff they love (Sinisa Jakov Marusic, 'Macedonia Jails its Top Archaeologist', Balkan Insight 25 Jul 14). A court in Skopje has sentenced the country's former chief excavator, Pasko Kuzman, to three years in jail for his role in the organized smuggling of archaeological finds from the country.
After a year-long trial in a case codenamed “Phalanx”, the former head of Macedonia’s Cultural Heritage Protection Office has been found guilty of aiding a criminal ring to excavate and sell off valuable archaeological artifacts. The prosecution said he and other office employees in 2011 gave permission to third parties to dig in locations near the town of Delcevo and along the road from Skopje to Veles. [...] The defendants insisted they were innocent. But a prosecution witness told the court that he bought and then re-sold valuable artifacts from the group for profit.[...] Kuzman was arrested last July and placed in custody at his home, owing to medical problems. As head of the Cultural Heritage Protection Office, over the past few years Kuzman oversaw the main archaeological digs across the country.
Kuzman was one of the 16 defendants. It should be noted that the reports indicate that he has been convicted of issuing excavation permits which were not in his remit to issue. There is no mention in the reports I have seen that he was himself involved in the trade of artefacts, but administrative malpractice. The former chief of sector in the Heritage Protection Office, Ilco Bojcevski, "who was accused of leading the crime ring, was jailed for seven-and-a-half years". Other former office employees, archaeologists and illegal excavators received jail terms. Four of them were sentenced on probation. The defence is reported to have tried to make light of the issue, claiming that the artefacts seized by police in the bust last year were not as valuable as the prosecution maintained. The lawyers for the defence announced that they would appeal the sentences.

For more on this case:
Wednesday, 17 July 2013, 'Update on Kuzman Case',  'Macedonia's Kuzman Questioned',

Tuesday, 14 May 2013,'Macedonia: 19 Arrested for Artifact Smuggling'

[I do not know the ins and outs of this case, but my own experience leads me initially to be somewhat suspicious of some of these verdicts, it would not be the first time in "eastern" Europe , where conservation gets in the way of the plans of certain powerful people, the core of a team of cultural heritage protection officials has been got rid of on trumped-up charges or linking them to some other activity. The recent history of the equivalent services in Poland - where I know the people involved - contain three very good (bad) examples of precisely this sort of thing.]

1 comment:

kyri said...

so he was not only trying to steal greeces macedonian history but also stealing greek antiquities for profit.i have no sympathy for this man.i dont think it was a fit up,he was the darling of the macedonian nationalists trying to prove the imposible and doing all he could to rewrite history.alot of people thought he was a bit of a clown.he was responsible for putting priceless ancient greek statues on display in the streets of skopje,no respect at all shown to the pieces.

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