Thursday, 21 December 2017

Turkey seizes largest ever haul of ancient statues and coins

Some of the artefacts stopped from reaching foreign buyers

Ali Kucukgocmen, 'Turkey seizes largest ever haul of ancient statues and coins' Reuters December 21 2017
Turkish police said on Thursday they had [seized] thousands of artefacts dating back to Anatolian, Greek and Egyptian civilizations in the largest operation to combat smuggling of ancient treasures in the country’s history. Among the items recovered were a golden queen’s crown with an inscription of the Hellenistic god, Helios, a bust dedicated to Alexander the Great’s conquest of India and a statue of a goddess dating back to the Hittite era 3,000 years ago. The 26,456 objects recovered also included Egyptian-origin statues and Phoenician-type teardrop vials. “The retrieved artefacts are... more valuable than the artefacts in the inventory of an average size museum,” Istanbul police said in a statement. For three months the investigation, dubbed “Operation Zeus”, tracked the smuggling ring, which aimed to take the artefacts abroad and sell them to museums and collectors for millions of dollars, it said. Six people involved in the ring were detained on Dec. 12 in Turkey’s northwestern province of Duzce as they attempted to sell off some of their haul. Seven more were detained in four different provinces [addendum:  in Kars, Rize and Çanakkale].
 These Turkish sellers were trafficking items from all over, while some were probably of origin in Turkey, the mention of  'Egyptian-origin statues and Phoenician-type teardrop vials' suggest that they were taking artefacts from a variety of middlemen - and so there is no reason to exclude that they were selling (no-questions-asked) items looted in neighbouring Syria. Any foreign dealer buying items from these guys could not possibly know who'd brought the stuff to market - so how can they deny handling objects looted by groups such as ISIL?

The same story is given in Hurriyet Daily News ('Nearly 26,500 ancient artifacts seized in biggest operation in Turkey’s history', December 21 2017). This gives the information that  13 suspects have been detained so far.

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