OFFICERS of the Guardia Civil in Jaen Province have broken up a gang which specialised in obtaining and then selling archaeological relics illegally.
The investigation started when officers discovered that an individual had possession of a number of early Roman and Iberian items including a Roman bracelet and various sheets of lead engraved with Iberian and Latin inscriptions.
These items were examined by experts who confirmed that the pieces were both valuable and of historical importance and a careful observation was made of the movements of this first suspect.
It transpired that six people – who were later arrested – were involved in obtaining archaeological finds through three different methods.
Firstly, using metal detectors they illegally entered historic sites and searched for buried artefacts, secondly, they purchased historic items from other gangs and thirdly they dealt with agricultural workers who had unearthed finds but didn’t know their worth.
In the third case they took the items away promising to sell them but if they were of no value they returned them to the finder whilst if they were of value, they simply said that they had been seized by the Guardia Civil.
If the owners of the ‘seized pieces’ complained, they made counterfeits or substituted similar yet worthless pieces.
Following the arrest of those involved, officers discovered large numbers of coins, rings, ceramics and other relics as well as metal detectors and catalogues to allow them to price the objects before selling them on the internet, at fairs or to collectors directly.