Police said Wednesday they had broken up an international art trafficking ring, recovering hundreds of works dug up by tomb raiders in Sicily and sold in Europe and the United States.
Seventy-seven people were targeted in an operation spanning regions up and down Italy, police said. Of those, 27 people were detained and eight were placed under house arrest. They are accused of criminal association aimed at illegal digging, looting, counterfeiting, selling and receiving archaeological objects belonging to the state.
“We retrieved around 1,600 objects,” said Capt. Jonathan Pace, a chief officer with the financial police in the Sicilian town of Gela. They include a large vase dating from 450 B.C. worth $129,500 and found in Barcelona, a Roman bathtub worth more than $168,400, also found in Barcelona, and several coins valued at $64,700 each, Pace said.
The organization allegedly included tomb raiders who looted Sicily's archaeological sites in Gela, Agrigento, Vittoria, Morgantina, and Termini Imerese. The artifacts were sold mainly in Germany, Switzerland and Spain, as well as in the United States.