Saturday 20 July 2013

The Sting


Greek police are trying to stem the rise in illegal antiquity trading
Detective Gergios Tsoukalis puffs nervously on his cigar. In the passenger's seat of a taxi, he grapples with four different mobile phones as he tries to co-ordinate the arrest of yet another antiquities smuggler. As the driver pulls into the port, he sees ahead of him that plainclothes police officers have already pounced on the unassuming man, who is completely shocked by the early-morning operation. As he is being bundled into a van, one of the officers shouts at him: "How many of you are there? Don't mess me around. How many?" Mr Tsoukalis is less concerned with the accused. He is following the trail of the treasure. He heads straight to the back of the suspect's vehicle and pulls out a bag to confirm that these are the stolen artefacts. "These are them, here are the coins," he says with relief, immediately lighting up another cigar. These moments are what the detective lives for. Hunting down illegal traders and saving timeless ancient objects does not just provide him with a rush of adrenaline or a satisfying buzz. First and foremost, he does this job because he is Greek and cannot stand to see his country's most valuable and vulnerable artefacts in the wrong hands.

Source: Amid Greek austerity, plunder of priceless treasures', 

Watch Theopi Skarlatos' report in full at the BBC's Fast Track website

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