Over 18 000 items seized and 59 arrests made in Europe-wide operation targeting cultural goods

epa05964226 (FILE) - An exterior view of the new Europol headquarters, the alliance of the European Union police and a multinational research organization, in The Hague, The Netherlands 01 July 2011, (reissued 14 May 2017). Media reports on 14 May 2017 state that experts of Europol expect a wave of further attacks on computers with so-called 'Ransomware'. A cyber attack hit at least 150 countries world wide with an estimate 200,000 victims, Europol chief Rob Wainwright was cited as saying in an interview with British broadcaster ITV. It is expected that there are even more attacks on computers recorded at the beginning of the new working week, Wainwright added. The so-called 'WannaCry' ransomware cyber attack hit the computers by encrypting files from affected computer units and demanded 300 US dollars through bitcoin to decrypt the files. EPA/LEX VAN LIESHOUT

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Customs and other law enforcement authorities from 29 countries, coordinated by the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) and supported by Europol, INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization (WCO), have joined forces against the trafficking of cultural goods.

During operation Pandora III, law enforcement authorities assigned thousands of Police and Customs officers to focus on online market and key hot spots, with the aim of disrupting the activities of criminal groups involved in this form of trafficking.

In total, 59 individuals were arrested and over 18 000 cultural goods seized, including archaeological items, furniture, coins, paintings, musical instruments and sculptures. During the checks, objects that may facilitate the trafficking of cultural goods, such as metal detectors were also seized.

The majority of the objects seized during the operation were from European countries; however, more than 30 objects originated in countries outside Europe such as Colombia, Egypt, Iraq and Morocco.

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Operation highlights:

  • Around 10 000 archaeological artefacts were seized as a result of a single successful investigation carried out by the Spanish Civil Guard; 91 ceramic objects and 109 ancient coins were seized by the Italian Carabinieri Command for the Protection of
  • Cultural Heritage (Carabinieri TPC) in private premises and mail centres; in a single investigation, 419 cultural objects were seized by Polish Police (Policja);
  • Dutch Police spotted a 15th-century bible that had been stolen in Germany over 25 years ago. This rare edition was seized and returned to Germany; Romanian Police (Poliția Română) seized 128 pieces of ancient Roman military personal equipment, 134 pieces of antique ceramics and 189 coins (from the Hellenistic, Roman Republican and Roman Imperial periods) which had been stolen from archaeological sites;
  • German Customs seized an ancient Mesopotamian crystal cylinder seal that had been shipped to Germany by post. The investigation is ongoing.

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