January 21, 2015 / 9:31 PM / 5 years ago

Italy seizes thousands of ancient artefacts from traffickers

ROME (Reuters) - Italian and Swiss police have broken up an art trafficking organization and recovered more than 5,000 ancient artefacts worth over 50 million euros ($57.92 million), Italy’s culture ministry said on Wednesday.

The artefacts, from between the eighth century BC and the third century AD, include rare Greek and Roman amphoras, statues, vases and frescoes.

They originally came from clandestine archaeological digs on the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia and the southern mainland regions of Puglia and Calabria.

The police unit responsible for safeguarding Italy’s cultural heritage said it had found five warehouses in the Swiss city of Basel full of the artefacts, leading to the arrest of a married couple.

They are accused of labeling items to indicate a bogus origin and ownership, and selling them to private collections and museums in Britain, Germany, the United States, Japan and Australia.

The artefacts have now been “definitively restored to the national cultural heritage,” the ministry said at a presentation in a Rome museum.

Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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