Monday, 9 December 2013

Bulgarian police bust group raiding Thracian tombs

Police search a flat in Germany
[UPDATED] Bulgarian police have arrested a group that was illegally excavating Thracian tombs near the town of Pernik. In an operation on 7th December, eight men from Sofia - ranging in age from 24 to 52 - were arrested, six of them on the archaeological site and two, alleged to be organisers of the illegal excavation, were arrested subsequently.
The group arrested included people who had previous records for theft, assault and car theft [...] A 46-year-old man from Sofia also was detained in connection with illegal excavation and vandalism. At subsequent searches at various addresses, police found and confiscated firearms with erased numbers, ammunition, masks, tools, security jamming equipment, 300 coins of cultural and historical value – some identified as Roman sestertii – earrings, rings and other jewellery of cultural and historical value. Police also found multiple mobile phones and SIM cards.
Who'd buy coins and artefacts from other people? Who'd actually know who they were buying from?

Sofia Globe, 'Bulgarian police bust group raiding Thracian tombs', Sofia Globe, 8th December 2013.

UPDATE 10.12.13
Peter Tompa "Is the Latest Bulgarian Bust for Real?",Tuesday, December 10, 2013" has cast doubt on this report:
Despite the uncritical* coverage in the archaeological blogoshpere (sic), one has to wonder about the accuracy of recent press reports that claim Bulgarian police have smashed a ring of  Thracian tomb raiders.
Like the report saying six of the men arrested were caught red handed actually on the site?

Mr Tompa seems confused by the photo accompanying the Sofia Globe article which shows a variety of objects on a tabletop. This seems a recurring phenomenon among those connected with the ACCG. They seem to place priority over a picture accompanying a text than the actual content of the text itself (see Wayne Sayles' latest for another recent example of this coiney fixation with pictures). The men were arrested on the 7th Dec (a Saturday), the next day an article in English appears and Mr Tompa expects that it is accompanied by a photo of the objects seized.

The first thing we should note is that there is no caption linking this picture or the objects shown to the tomb-robbers, nor is the photo attributed (it is called "llegal-excavation-of-thracian-mound-photo-mvr-604x272.jpg"). I have no idea what connection the objects shown there have to the police operation being discussed but lawyer Tompa seems to have made his mind up. I suggest there is every likelihood that this is a stock photo just the same as on any given day most articles in the Sofia Globe are decorated by a photo which may or may not actually depict the precise event discussed.

I think also Mr Tompa and his insulting sidekick the sock-puppet Arthur Houghton are also forgetting how the police work, including in their own country. Mr Tompa himself carried (I am sure I remember) the sob-story of a US coin dealer who was accused of selling a few stolen items and was bemoaning the fact that the Federal authorities had taken a huge part of his stock together with the seized items. 

If Todor Eyesnotfieff accused of being a Bulgarian tomb-raider has his house raided, the police may well take many more items for examination by experts than in fact later turn out to be involved in a culpable offence. If Todor (or his teenage son) has a coin collection, and his wife a few pieces of antique jewellery, then chances are the police will take that for looking through, irrespective of what it contains (a policeman on the beat does not have to be a coin or antiquities expert - they call in experts to assess items after they've been taken back to the police station and properly inventorised) and if it is decided that none of the coins are evidence of any crime, they'll get them back. Such an assessment and documenting the conclusions may take several days and involve a number of experts, which is why it would not normally be conducted in a suspect's home (leaving the objects there overnight potentially allowing a householder to tamper with the potential evidence) but in a place suitable for such work - such as a police station. It may well be that what we see in this photograph is evidence of police thoroughness in making sure they have secured as much evidence as possible, not that no crime was committed at Pernik, as the ACCG wishful thinkers would have it.

*in the original, the word "uncritical" hyperlinks back to the current blog post - nice. I removed it here to avoid the reader opening the same post in two different windows.


Cultural Property Observer said...

I'd like to see a better picture. The flans of these coins in the picture look very regular-- like modern coins. Also, nothing looks like it was buried. Is this for real?

Paul Barford said...

I'd like to see photos of artefact thieves being arrested and sitting in jail. I guess they don't have too many stock photos of that - maybe they could pose a few?

I really have no idea whose photo that is or of what, but you'll note I did not use it.

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