Thousands of Priceless Artifacts Seized in Police Operation in 28 Countries | Interpol

Priceless items including ancient coins, paintings, furniture, musical instruments and statuettes were seized during a four-month police operation in 28 countries.

More than 9,400 objects were recovered and 52 people arrested during an operation targeting the illicit trafficking of cultural property, carried out between June and September last year, Interpol announced on Wednesday.

More than 170 investigations are ongoing, with more seizures and arrests expected as investigators “continue their pursuit of those who spoil and destroy cultural heritage”, the international criminal police operation said.

Operation Pandora VI, led by Spain, involved actions at airports and border crossings, as well as auction houses, museums and private residences. Online marketplaces have been monitored for suspicious sales.

Fifty-two people were arrested in an operation targeting the illicit trafficking of cultural property. Photography: Interpol

French customs officials seized 4,231 archaeological objects, including around 3,000 coins, as well as bells, buckles, rings and pieces of pottery that had been looted from archaeological sites by an individual using a metal detector.

Separately, they recovered three ancient statuettes dating to the La Tolita-Tumaco culture, whose inhabitants inhabited the area along the current Colombia-Ecuador border in the first millennium AD.

Spanish police have seized 91 Roman gold coins, looted from an archaeological site and worth an estimated half a million euros on the black market. Their investigation began when the pieces were spotted at an auction house in Madrid.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials recovered a shipment containing 13 Mexican artifacts from the Post-Classic to Aztec era, including a skull and 12 adzes, a cutting tool.

A 13th-century processional cross has been returned to the Evangelical Church Museum in Cisnădie, Romania.

Operation Pandora VI took place from June 1 to September 30, 2021 in 28 countries. Photography: Interpol

Meanwhile, Dutch police have recovered two paintings by Kees Verweij which had been reported as stolen, after investigating an online sales catalog from an Amsterdam auction house.

A marble column dating from the Roman period, along with 13 ancient coins and three pottery vessels dating from the Hellenistic period, were seized by Greek police.

Seven European law enforcement authorities have recovered 90 metal detectors intended for illicit use at archaeological sites.

Operation Pandora, coordinated by Europol, Interpol and the World Customs Organization, has resulted in the recovery of 147,050 cultural objects and the arrest of 407 people since its launch in 2016.

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