20.01.2017 - Culture Sector

Opération PANDORA: 3561 objets d’art saisis et 75 personnes arrêtées.

18 countries have participated in a pan-European operation against "THEFT AND ILLICIT TRAFFICKING OF CULTURAL GOODS”, led by Cyprus and Spain with the support of EUROPOL, INTERPOL, UNESCO and WCO.
The operation focused on cultural spoliation (underwater and land), illicit trafficking of cultural goods (with special focus on conflict countries), cultural theft, in order to improve the picture of criminal groups who work in cultural theft and cultural exploitation, and to identify possible links with other criminal areas.

Operation PANDORA took place in October and November 2016 with a common action phase from 17-23 November 2016。

In order to strengthen cooperation during the action week several police officers were deployed abroad in order to cooperate in inspections and searches. As a consequence of this operation, 75 people have been arrested and 92 new investigations were opened.

Most of the actions were carried out in coordination with other administrations such as Customs, Ministry of Culture, church, etc.

The following States participated in Operation PANDORA: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Cyprus, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland and UK.

A total of 3561 works of art and cultural goods where seized; almost half of them were archeological objects.

Furthermore, in the above mentioned countries in total 48,588 persons, 29,340 vehicles and 50 ships were checked.

Spanish Guardia Civil has seized more than 500 archeological objects in Murcia. 19 were stolen from a Museum of archeology in Murcia in 2014.

These action included check of suspicious Internet announcements where over 400 coins from different origin and periods were seized because of its illegal origin.

Greek police has seized in different actions along the country a part of a marble Ottoman tombstone and a post Byzantine picture of the 18th century, which depicts Saint George, and two other Saints as well as two Byzantine artifacts.

EUROPOL supported the involved experts by providing operational and analytical support during the action.

INTERPOL assisted the investigators in the field to check hundreds of objects against the 50,000 records in the INTERPOL Stolen Works of Art database, providing them a swift response regarding the licit provenience of the cultural items found during their inspections and controls.

The WCO supported the countries involved by alerting all concerned Customs administrations of the ongoing action and asking for full cooperation and assistance to police.

UNESCO supported with training materials and advice to the participating countries.

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