SPANISH Guardia Civil have led a massive international operation against the trafficking of ‘cultural goods.’
During operation Pandora III, law enforcement authorities assigned thousands of police and customs officers to focus on online markets and key hot spots, with the aim of disrupting the activities of criminal groups involved in this form of trafficking.
In total, 59 individuals were arrested and over 18,000 cultural goods seized, including archaeological artefacts, furniture, coins, paintings, musical instruments and sculptures.
The majority of the objects seized were from European countries; however, more than 30 objects originated in countries outside Europe such as Colombia, Egypt, Iraq and Morocco.
According to police, fighting the illicit trafficking of cultural goods online is a key challenge. Criminal groups take advantage of digital platforms such as websites, social media and instant messaging apps to sell cultural artefacts of unlawful provenance.
Around 10,000 archaeological artefacts were seized as a result of a single successful investigation carried out by the Guardia Civil. Some 91 ceramic objects and 109 ancient coins were seized by the Italian Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (Carabinieri TPC) in private premises and mail centres and in a single investigation, 419 cultural objects were seized by Polish Police (Policja);
Dutch Police spotted a 15th-century bible that had been stolen in Germany over 25 years ago. This rare edition was seized and returned to Germany; Romanian Police (Poliția Română) seized 128 pieces of ancient Roman military personal equipment, 134 pieces of antique ceramics and 189 coins (from the Hellenistic, Roman Republican and Roman Imperial periods) which had been stolen from archaeological sites;
German Customs seized an ancient Mesopotamian crystal cylinder seal that had been shipped to Germany by post. The investigation is ongoing.
Customs and other law enforcement authorities from 29 countries, coordinated by the Guardia Civil and supported by Europol, INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization (WCO), joined forces for the operation.