Criminal charges were filed yesterday in connection to the alleged theft and illegal sale of an ancient gold wreath which is now owned by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
In the latest development in Greece’s investigation into illegal antiquities, Athens prosecutor Andreas Karaflos issued charges of illegal excavation, smuggling and receiving stolen goods against “persons unknown.”
An investigation by the Attica police’s illegal antiquities department revealed that the funerary wreath was sold to the Getty Museum in 1993 for $1.15 million and that five people were involved in the artifact illegally reaching the USA.
According to the police probe, the wreath, which dates to 320-300 BC, was discovered by a farmer in a village in Serres, northern Greece, in 1990 while he was performing an illegal excavation.
The wreath was then sold to two Greek men in Munich, Germany, police sources said.
With the help of a Serb man, the pair contacted an antiquities dealer in Switzerland who arranged for a deal to be reached with the museum in LA.
Greek authorities believe that former Getty curator Marion True played a key role in the exchange. True is on trial in Rome accused of having knowingly bought stolen artifacts for the museum. True denies any wrongdoing.
Sources at the Culture Ministry said yesterday that the police investigation strengthened Greece’s hand in trying to negotiate for the return of the wreath. The Getty Museum has already returned two ancient sculptures to Greece after pressure from the government.
Greek authorities are also in talks with the museum over the return of a 6th century BC marble statue and are investigating how this and a number of other antiquities ended up with their current owners.
Interesting that one year ago today (give or take), we first began getting news reports about the wreath in question ...