Back in 2008 I noted a raid on an antiquities dealer in Barcelona, Spain. This revealed a substantial number of archaeological objects apparently looted from Italy.
Now Barcelona is in the news again. It appears that an Egyptian D21 painted coffin of Imesy will be returned to Egypt. Reports in the Spanish press map its route from its acquisition, apparently in Egypt, by a Spanish private collector by name of Miguel Angel Buendía during the 1970s ("Egipto recuperará en marzo un sarcófago faraónico, incautado en Estados Unidos", El País February 22, 2010). [I am grateful to a reader of LM for this report.]
The coffin was reportedly seized by US Customs at Miami, Florida in October 2008. It appears that the object lacked the appropriate documentation to demonstrate its collecting history (or "provenance"). It had apparently been consigned by a Barcelona gallery, "Arqueología Clásica" (proprietor Félix Cervera), passed through Ireland, and arrived in the US at Orlando.
Then I rechecked the details of Operation Ghelas involving the antiquities from Italy ("Italian archaeology smugglers uncovered", ANSA, January 31, 2007). Here is the significant section:
Italian police have uncovered an extensive smuggling network specialised in digging up archaeological treasures in Sicily and selling them to wealthy collectors in Europe and America.
Police arrested 35 people in eight Italian regions on Wednesday. A further 42 people are being investigated on suspicion of smuggling or receiving the goods, which included coins, statues and vases sometimes dating back to pre-Roman times.
According to investigators, the artefacts were dug up illegally by teams of tomb-raiders in Sicily who, through a middle-man in Gela, passed them on to receivers with contacts in Germany, Britain, Switzerland, Spain and the US.
Investigations in Spain also reportedly uncovered links with a Barcelona antiques dealer called Bea Felix Cervera.
It will be interesting to see what further information appears from both these cases.