Tuesday 13 April 2021

Looted Roman Statue Found in Unnamed Belgian Antique Shop

                      There is no hiding from the Carabinari                 

Italian art police recovered a 1st century Roman statue that had been looted from an archaeological site nearly a decade ago after off-duty officers spotted it in an antique shop in Belgium, Italian authorities said this week (Rachel Treisman, Jeanette Muhammad, '1st Century Roman Statue, Looted A Decade Ago, Found In Belgium By Off-Duty Police' NPR  April 13, 2021). The two officers saw it while walking around the Belgian capital's upmarket Sablon district, known for its antiques and vintage furniture shops, and became "suspicious," police said. 

The Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (TPC) said in a statement that two of its officers, on assignment in Brussels, had been browsing a neighborhood of antique shops after work when they came upon a marble statue that struck them as suspicious. The headless, toga-draped figure appeared to be of Italian origin, and bore the signature damage of excavation tools. Upon their return to Italy, the officers cross-referenced their photographs with a database of stolen cultural assets, which confirmed their hunch: The statue had been stolen in November 2011 from the Villa Marini Dettina archaeological site, on the outskirts of Rome.[...] The statue was seized and brought back to Italy in February, following a European Investigation Order accepted by the Belgian authorities [...] A subsequent investigation in collaboration with Belgian authorities uncovered illicit trafficking in cultural goods by an Italian trader who used a Spanish pseudonym. He has been referred to Italian prosecutors for allegedly receiving and illegally exporting the statue, the TPC said. 
      Would you buy an ancient statue here? 
The Belgian "antiques" shop that had acquired a marble statue this size that would not have had any genuine legitimising paperwork and that bore the "signature damage of excavation tools" was not given. But in photos of officers standing in the shop with the statue, a floodlit Buddha head can be seen on the wall behind them and other photos show the interior of the shop owned by this carefree anonymous antiquities peddler. If the trade associations were as good as their word, this seller should be called to account for this and if unable to provide a reasonable explanation (like having very good forged documents from the seller), thrown out. In the photos can be seen a lump of stone that could be an ancient altar (?), the (Gandhara?) Buddhe head, another head deeper in the shop ('Kushan', maybe?) and another Buddha. So where is this stuff coming from? What else has this dealer bought from dodgy pseudonymous suppliers? How much bought from dodgy pseudonymous suppliers have they already sold to collectors in the past?

Also what does this say for the legitimacy of a market where a guy with an assumed name can be paid for something he does not own and somehow the transaction goes through? (From Brussels, through Spain to Italy?) This is just criminal laundering, pure and simple.  

Outside the shop, stolen item being taken away.

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