Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Macedonia: 19 Arrested for Artifact Smuggling

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) is reporting ('Macedonia: 19 Arrested for Artifact Smuggling', Monday, 13 May 2013) that the local authorities have dismantled an organized crime ring responsible for the theft and smuggling of multiple religious and historical artifacts (referring to an earlier, May 10th,  report by Eurasia Review):
Nineteen individuals, including a deputy director of the Office for the Protection of Cultural Heritage and a police officer, were arrested in the operation. Other officials, including directors of museums in the town of Demir Kapija and the capital Skopje were also arrested, Eurasia Review reported. Pasko Kuzman, Director of the Office for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, told the Southeast Times in Skopje that he suspected the scheme went beyond Macedonia itself. “I am convinced that it is an organized group that is associated with other groups and individuals abroad,” he said. Officials used knowledge and influence available to them through their positions to expedite the smuggling of the artifacts. Many of the items were stolen from churches in the area, and others were taken directly from archaeological sites. Authorities found more than 150 artifacts including coins, bronze, ceramics and icons during the operation, the Times reported. 
The report goes on to discuss the no-questions-asked international market for smuggled archaeological treasures and other cultural property. It states that in 2013 alone, close to 40 Macedonian churches have already had cultural items stolen.

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