Some 9,500 ancient coins, mostly made of bronze, were confiscated by the police authorities of Chalkidiki after the last case of antiquities smuggling ring was exposed a few days ago.
The archaeologists of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism have completed the counting of the findings and have already begun the scientific documentation of the confiscated ancient artifacts, which have been transported to the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki.
The majority of the coins comes from the broader Northern Greece region and dates back from the Byzantine era to the 5th century BC. Among the coins, several silver coins have also been found, mostly tetradrachms from the 4th century BC, cut by the Chalkidian Alliance and Phillipos II.
Other small objects confiscated include bronze votive idols and jewelry, such as necklaces, rings, clasps and pins, most probably looted through illegal excavations on graves. Three golden mouthpieces of the 6th century BC stand out amidst the overall findings of the police research.
Some of the findings were counterfeits, as announced by the experts, including a copy of a marble Cycladic idol and a small sculpture representing the Venus de Milo.
Vast police operations managed to smash the large antiquities smuggling network. 43 members of the ring and their suspected leader are now under arrest facing serious charges. They are Greek nationals who were setting up “businesses” in 13 prefectures of Macedonia, Thessaly and Central Greece and were particularly active in the cities of Thessaloniki, Chalkidiki, Kilkis, Pella, Imathia, Pieria, Serres, Drama, Kavala, Karditsa, Larisa, Trikala, Fthiotida. The police are aware of how the suspects worked, as well as what everyone’s particular function in the ring was.
The Greek authorities point out that the successful arrests were due to the collaboration of the local Police Departments with the Special Violent Crime Squad. 44 people were arrested on the 4th and 5th of March, including the alleged “head” of the ring, a 66-year-old resident of Thessaloniki, and the rest were members aged between 25 and 74 years, among them pensioners and municipal workers.
According to police information, the 66-year-old “middle-man” would receive the ancient artifacts from his co-workers, evaluate them and put them on sale in various foreign countries through a network he had developed. To that end, he personally travelled to the potential buyers’ countries or sent the items via transporting companies, though in small envelopes, so as not to become suspicious. Bulgary, Germany, Switzerland and England were some of the primary business destinations, according to the police that discovered repeated money transfers to the suspect’s account.
Besides the golden coins and ancient artifacts, metal detectors, weapons, books related to coin identification and large money sums were also found and confiscated by the officers.
(Additional translated information provided by Areti Kotseli)