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40 arrests, thousands of items seized, in Bulgaria, Turkey and France in operation against illegal trade in archaeological objects

40 arrests, thousands of items seized, in Bulgaria, Turkey and France in operation against illegal trade in archaeological objects
A total of 40 people were arrested in Bulgaria, Turkey and France and about 5500 items seized as police bust an illegal operation trafficking items of cultural historical value, including ancient archaeological objects made of gold and silver.

The police operations were carried out in the three countries with the assistance of the Southeast European Law Enforcement centre (SELEC).

Details of the large-scale investigation carried out were announced by the deputy director of the Bulgaria's Directorate-General for Combating Organized Crime, Senior Commissioner Stoyan Temelakiev, the spokesperson of the Specialized Prosecutor's Office Nadezhda Yotova, the head of the Transnational Organized Crime Department, Commissioner Yavor Kolev, the French liaison officer for Bulgaria, Eric Delville, and the Bulgarian and Turkish liaison officers To SELEC.

The investigation began a year and a half ago by Bulgarian anti-organised crime officers and in co-operation with the other police services, expanded to Turkey and France.

The operation was against organised crime groups assisting international "channels" for illicit trafficking and trade in artifacts acquired mainly through illegal archaeological digs, mainly in Bulgaria and Turkey.

The police operations were conducted in three stages. Two of them are part of a larger international operation against crimes against cultural heritage between Bulgaria, France and Turkey and with the assistance of Serbia.

The overall co-ordination between Bulgaria and Turkey in the preparatory phase and during the conduct of the investigative actions was accomplished with the assistance of the Southeast European Enforcement centre, where additional funds were needed to carry out the operation.

From May 4 to 12, three special police operations were carried out on the territory of Bulgaria by officers of the anti-organised crime squad and under the direction of the Special Prosecutor's Office.

A total of 40 people were arrested on the territory of Bulgaria, France and Turkey.

Forty addresses were searched. Among the items seized were coins and objects from antiquity and the Middle Ages, among them ceramic and metal vessels, various appliqués, rings, earrings, figures of stone and metal and others. Some of the items and coins were made of gold and silver.

About 20 metal detectors have been seized, including a specific geo-array scanner, as well as computer and other high-tech equipment. The actions were conducted in 11 cities in Bulgaria and four abroad.

Bulgaria's Interior Ministry said that this was one of the largest operations of this kind ever carried out, and anti-organised crime officers were continuing investigations and actions.

A very large number of items seized are to be handed over for preservation in Bulgarian museums. They were returned with the assistance of foreign affiliates, overseas representatives of the Ministry of Interior and anti-organised crime officers./ΙΒΝΑ

 

(Photos: Bulgarian Interior Ministry press centre)

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