Greek authorities‘ fears of smugglers burglarizing churches and monasteries in Epirus came true.
A few days after two icons, a bible and two holy grails were stolen from the Byzantine Church of Panagia Evaggelistra in Pogoni Region, six more icons and many offerings mysteriously disappeared from the Holy Monastery of the Entrance of Theotokos, located in Molista, in Konitsa.
Residents noticed the theft in the afternoon of June 28 and immediately reported it to the Police Department of Konitsa. The smugglers broke into the church and removed the icons and the offerings. Four decades ago a holy heirloom representing Virgin Mary was also stolen from the church.
It should be noted that during the period from 2004 to 2009, icons of great value were stolen by smugglers from churches and monasteries located in Zagori region, in Epirus. Some of the icons were later found in galleries in London and Amsterdam, where they were exhibited for sale.
The issue has created great concern and according to Greek news, Scotland Yard has issued a 150-page report where a 43-year-old man from Trikala, engaged in tourist business, is suspected as the brain of the case. The report, which contains important information about the smugglers’ ring, is expected to be handed to the Greek authorities for further investigation.
Several icons have been located and repatriated from Temple Gallery in London and Dullaert Gallery in Amsterdam. According to Richard Temple himself, the gallery acquired the icons from the same 43-year old man from Trikala. Furthermore, on April 2011, collectors found stolen icons in the web catalogue of H.W.C Dullaert. The objects were confiscated by Dutch authorities
In total, eleven icons stolen from the Churches of Assumption and Agios Tryfonas in Epirus were found in Temple Gallery and another ten were repatriated from Dullaert Gallery.