Illegal Antiquities Cache Prompts Greek Inquiry
April 18, 2006
The Greek authorities said on Tuesday that they were investigating a suspected conspiracy to smuggle antiquities hidden on a remote island to major museums and other buyers abroad.
The inquiry, described by the Greek culture minister, George Voulgarakis, as one of the most complex cases in recent history, springs from a raid last week in an Athens suburb and another on Skhoinousa, a tiny Greek island, where the police discovered a vast cache of ancient artifacts, some more than 3,000 years old.
Mr. Voulgarakis said at a news conference that the antiquities seized at Skhoinousa, an island in the Cyclades, were stored in containers. Items cataloged so far by archaeologists range widely in age and geographic origin, he said, from marble busts of Roman gods to Corinthian columns, from Christian icons to an Egyptian amphora, with dates running from the early Hellenistic era to the post-Byzantine period.
Evidence retrieved in the raid indicated that many of the items had been bought at Christie's or Sotheby's between 2001 and 2005, although none had been declared to the Greek authorities before entering the country, as required by law, he said.
Specifically, the authorities are trying to determine whether the cache has any links to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Mr. Voulgarakis said.
Nearly three weeks ago the police raided a villa owned by the Getty's former antiquities curator, Marion True, on Paros, an island near Skhoinousa, and removed more than a dozen antiquities that had not been registered with the authorities. And for months, Greek officials have been pressing the Getty to return four artifacts in its collection that they contend were illegally removed from the country.
Still, Mr. Voulgarakis cautioned that we should not rush to any conclusions on any link between the Getty itself and the newly uncovered trove. No arrests have been made in connection with the raids, the minister added.
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