Thousands of stolen artifacts finally return to Italy

March 28, 2016

Priceless archaeological artifacts stolen from Italy are finally going home: 45 crates of items, worth about 9 millions of euros, have been recovered by Italian and Swiss police after they were found, in 2014, in a storage unit at the Geneva Freeport warehouse complex, in Switzerland. The storage unit had been rented by disgraced art dealer Robin Symes, a true champion in the illegal antiquities trade and once linked to Italian tomb raiders.

Finally, the artifacts were shipped back to Rome last January, with great satisfaction from the Italian government.

Dario Franceschini, the Italian culture minister, explained to the press that they were not talking about a few works, but about “forty-five crates containing tens of thousands of archaeological relics of extraordinary quality” and defined the operation as “one of the most important recoveries of the last few decades”.

Among the stolen artifacts, there were Etruscan painted sarcophaguses representing human figures, a Roman sarcophagus, marble statues of animals and pieces of the floor and walls of a temple, all dating to between the seventh century BC and second century AD.

The masterpieces were stolen from various digs in Italy - in Sicily, Apulia, Campania and Calabria - during the Seventies and the Eighties, and then smuggled into Geneva Freeport. There, they stayed for years, unknown and unseen.

Finally, the artifacts were tracked by Italian investigators after seizing incriminating papers from an art smuggler and recovered in synergy with the Swiss police. According to the investigators, the initial intention of the art smuggler was to restore the masterpieces and sell them on to clients in Japan, Germany and other countries under false papers.

Now, all the antiquities will be restored and returned to the regions across southern Italy from which they were stolen.

Picture: some of the recovered artifacts (source TheGuardian).

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