Cyprus busts largest antiquity smuggling network
Mon, Jan 25, 2010

NICOSIA, CYPRUS - Cyprus authorities said on Monday they had uncovered the island's largest ever antiquities smuggling ring trying to sell stolen artefacts for 11.5 million euros (S$22.8 million).

Ten Cypriots have been detained in custody while authorities have issued arrest warrants against five other suspects - including a Syrian - in connection with the case, police said.

Some of the objects date back to 2000 BC and include pottery, coins and small golden statuettes.

According to the antiquities department many of the finds came from sites in Cyprus while other artefacts originate from countries yet to be determined.

Police said they had 110 officers on the case after being alerted by Greek authorities when a Greek undercover policeman was approached by someone offering the treasure for sale in Cyprus.

"By cooperating with the Greek authorities were able to track and locate this smuggling ring," Communications Minister Nicos Nicolaides told reporters on Monday.

However, the case also raises questions about security surrounding the island's archaeological sites.

"This is our heritage and the most precious things we have so they should be made safe," said Nicolaides.

Police are also investigating whether the suspects are linked to a wider international smuggling network.

Authorities on the British bases in Cyprus also helped in the search of properties where the cultural treasures were hidden. --AFP


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