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75 Arrested in European Crackdown on Art Trafficking

MADRID — The European police have arrested 75 people and recovered about 3,500 stolen archaeological artifacts and other artworks as part of the dismantling of an international network of art traffickers.

The arrests, announced on Sunday in a statement by Spain’s Interior Ministry, followed a Pan-European police operation begun in October and led by investigators in Spain and Cyprus.

The criminal network handled artworks looted from war-stricken countries, as well as works stolen from museums and other sites, the statement said. In the southern Spanish city of Murcia, the police recovered about 500 archaeological pieces, including 19 stolen from the city’s archaeological museum in 2014.

In Greece, the authorities recovered part of an Ottoman tombstone, Byzantine objects and an image of St. George dating to the 18th century.

The Spanish police also released a photograph of ancient coins, some of which were recovered by tracing online sales. The Spanish authorities, however, did not provide a detailed inventory of the recovered objects, and would not confirm where the arrests were made.

The investigation, code-named Pandora, involved police investigators from 18 countries, with the support of Interpol and Europol. Unesco, the Paris-based cultural agency, also provided expertise.

A spokesman for Spain’s Interior Ministry said the investigation was disclosed this weekend only after it was completed, even though the arrests occurred earlier. Altogether, the statement said, more than 48,000 people were investigated.

Source: NYT > World

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