Skip to main content

Operation Carolina Mosaico: Expoliadores arrested in Spain

In November it was reported that four individuals had been arrested in Spain following looting from a Roman cemetery ("España: descubiertos restos robados de una necrópolis de Córdoba", AFP, November 16, 2010; "Spanish police recover relics from Roman necropolis", AFP November 16, 2010). One of those arrested was a Belgian-Lebanese male who was reported to be linked to the consignment of marble column-base, valued at 150,000 euros, to Christie's in London. The finds recovered included a Roman mosaic, prehistoric axes and 800 Arab and Roman coins. It was said that "police were still searching for the mastermind behind the network".

There seems to have been a development ("Cae una red que expoliaba y subastaba en Internet piezas arqueológicas", EFE Newswire December 10, 2010). It is reported that there have been some 85 arrests in several provinces: Madrid, Sevilla, Córdoba, Jaén, Málaga, Granada and Valencia. This is part of an operation known as "Carolina Mosaico". There have been some 115 searches that have yielded "6.000 monedas romanas y medievales, puntas de flecha, fíbulas de origen romano, pendientes y hebillas visigodas, hachas de piedra pulimentada, estelas con inscripciones en árabe, columnas y exvotos". The network had been supplying objects to buyers in Germany, the United Kingdom and the USA.

The police statement said that some members of the network had been using metal-detectors ("utilizando detectores de metales") and were paid a daily rate (plus expenses) to search specific sites for archaeological material ("Los expoliadores actuaban en comisión de servicio. Se les asignaban un yacimiento y se les pagaban dietas y gastos de transporte").

The group also seems to have been dealing in precious metals. The seizure also included 120 kg in gold and 900,000 euros ("Detienen en Málaga a dos joyeros y a un numismático en una operación contra el expolio", Sur December 11, 2010). Those arrested include a numismatist ("numismático"), as well as German nationals. A number of weapons, including a machine-gun, have been seized.

There is also apparently evidence of a sophisticated workshop producing objects that were passed off as genuine. Members of the network are reported to have made "auto-bids" for objects offered for sale through the internet.


This story should alert any coin dealers who have been buying directly or indirectly from Spain.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Codename: Ainsbrook

I have been watching (UK) Channel 4's Time Team this evening. The programme looked at an undisclosed field (under a potato crop) where a Viking burial had been found. The location in Yorkshire was so sensitive that it was given a codename: Ainsbrook. Here is the summary:
In late 2003 two metal detectorists were working in a field in Yorkshire. They found 'treasure' buried just beneath the surface – a collection of Viking material next to a body. Although they had been detecting on the site for a number of years, during which time they had made large numbers of finds, nothing they had uncovered previously compared with this. They decided to share their discovery with archaeologists.The programme explored the tension between metal-detectorists and the English Heritage sponsored archaeologists putting six trenches into the field based on a geo-physical survey. Finds made by the metal-detectorists did not easily map onto the archaeological features.

Part of the programme had an …

The scale of the returns to Italy

I have been busy working on an overview, "Returning Archaeological Objects to Italy". The scale of the returns to Italy from North American collections and galleries is staggering: in excess of 350 objects. This is clearly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the material that has surfaced on the market without a history that can be traced back to the period before 1970. 

I will provide more information in due course, but the researcher is a reminder that we need to take due diligence seriously when it comes to making acquisitions.

Stele returns to Greece

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has announced (Saturday 8 September 2018) that a stele that had been due to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London in June 2017 has been returned to Greece (Friday 7 September 2018). The identification had been made by Cambridge-based forensic archaeologist Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.

It appeared that the stele had been supplied with a falsified history as its presence with Becchina until 1990 contradicted the published sale catalogue entry. It then moved into the hands of George Ortiz.

A year ago it was suggested that Sotheby's should contact the Greek authorities. Those negotiations appear to have concluded successfully.

The 4th century BC stele fragment, with the personal name, Hestiaios, will be displayed in the Epigraphic Museum in Athens. It appears to have come from a cemetery in Attica.