Yes, I was afraid of this, another documentary maker caught out by the fakers. Today the BBC ('Are looted antiquities from Syria funding IS?' 18 February 2015) has released a bit of video showing what "Ahmed" the Turkish middleman was showing the BBC reporter. Junk. The coins are probably geunine enough, but under that corrosion, the original surface is not going to be too good. "Ahmed" has acquired the rejects from an "unsorted lot" (nudge nudge wink wink) - could have got them from eBay. The "artefacts" which you can see are bizarre "bazaar archaeology" as Muscarella would have it. On the back row: an 'egyptianising' seated figure- junk, a standing figure - junk, a mother and baby (?) - junk and a little ointment jar - probably a tourist fake. In the front two laughable rams. "Ahmed" has either been duped or is a con-man himself. Regrettably this maeans we really cannot rely on anything he says. The BBC does not even have to send an archaeologist to Beirut with their reporter, it would have been enough to show the video to one and follow his advice.
It is ironic that among the series of videos promoting the documentary is one 'Fake works of art common from Syria', BBC 16 February 2015
Neither am I too convinced by the programme's 21-year old Lebanese smuggler "Mohammed" who'd given up. How old was he when he started? 16? 17? He was picking up stuff (not just antiquities) from 'taxi-drivers' and then selling it on. To whom? How did he recognize the contraband-carrying taxi driver? How was contact maintained with the three friends from Aleppo? There are more questions than answers here too.
Does that mean the smuggling is not going on? No, it means that it is difficult enough penetrating the smokescreens of the 'legitimate' end of the market, let alone the illicit one.And that reporters do not always have easy access to knowledgeable sources who can provide contacts. Was somebody paid to come up with an "Ahmed", and so did?