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Looted Egyptian treasures seized in Spain

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Looted Egyptian treasures seized in Spain
Spanish police examine seized Egyptian artefacts. Photo: Guardia Civil.
09:32 CET+01:00
Over 2,200 looted artefacts, many from ancient Egypt, were seized as part of a Europe-wide crackdown that also snared 35 suspected traffickers, Europol announced on Wednesday.

Among the most valuable of the recovered cultural items was a majestic bust of Egyptian goddess Sekhmet worth an estimated €100,000 ($113,000), said Spanish police Captain Javier Morales, an expert in historic objects.

The Egyptian treasures were recovered as part of an operation launched in 14 countries to prevent the further looting, theft and illicit trafficking of cultural artefacts.

The 36 stolen items Spanish police showed to the press, which included a statue of the goddess Isis and a vase covered in hieroglyphics, were alone worth up to €300,000.

Agents discovered those artefacts hidden in cheap vases during an inspection of a shipping container from Alexandria, Egypt, at the Port of Valencia on Spain's Mediterranean coast.

Some of the objects were likely looted from the burial site Saqqara and ruins near Mit Rahina in Egypt, police said.

“Since the revolution in Egypt it has been more difficult for authorities to take care of the many ancient sites in the country,” Luis Manuel Gonzálvez, curator of Barcelona’s Egyptian museum, told The Local. 

“Many artifacts have been taken from Egypt to Europe and the USA,”  Gonzálvez said, adding: “as the situation improves in Egypt, we are likely to see fewer incidents on this scale.”

Discovery of the container led agents to arrest Spaniards and Egyptians, who now face a range of charges including trafficking historic objects, money laundering and belonging to a criminal group.

Among the 14 European countries taking part in the week-long crackdown in November were France, Britain and Germany.

As part of the operation, police inspected thousands of antique and art dealers, auction houses and second-hand outlets. Checks were stepped up at airports, borders and ports.

Last week the Italian government announced police had seized more than 5,000 ancient artefacts in a record 45-million-euro haul after dismantling a Swiss-Italian trafficking ring.

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