Friday, 30 January 2015

Bulgaria busts international antiquities trafficking ring

As a further result of Operation Aureus, an international operation supported by Europol to prevent the theft and trafficking of European cultural property, the Bulgarian State Agency for National Security (SANS) announced two apparently related recent operations in Bulgaria part of ('Bulgaria busts international antiquities trafficking ring', The Sofia Globe January 30, 2015). These two operations by SANS took place in the period from November 26 2014 to January 26 2015.
It said that the operations were against an international organised crime group involving Bulgarian and foreign citizens that sought out and acquired various archeological objects and other objects of cultural value that were sent abroad illegally. SANS said that search-and-seizure operations had been carried out in 11 cities in Bulgaria at 36 addresses. Investigators seized more than 2000 ancient and medieval objects and coins from various eras and various objects, all meant to be protected by the Cultural Heritage Act. These included rare Thracian weapons, Thracian horse-riding decorations, antique pottery, bronze and precious metal, ceramics and glass, various types of jewellery – bracelets and earrings, rings with precious and semi-precious stones, brooches, bronze appliques, bronze and pottery figurines of people and animals, ancient and medieval seals, sets of antique surgical instruments, pieces of marble, Roman votive sticks, antique metal containers with ornate decorations in gold and silver, Christian crosses and icons.[...] Also seized were numerous metal detectors, including specific geo-radar systems for the precise study of layers of earth, devices for cleaning artifacts, scales, auction house catalogues, specialist literature, invoices related to trade and trafficking in items of cultural value. The agency said that it had found and documented production facilities and facilities for the production of specialist equipment for the needs of the organised crime group. Numerous computers and electronic communication devices used by the group were seized, SANS said. SANS said that it had inspected one of the largest private museums, owned by a business person identified only by his initials in the agency’s media statement. 
 It is interesting to see the state security agency involved in this one, rather than the police.

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