UK & World News

  • 25 November 2012, 4:18

Greek Undercover Sting Nets Artefact Suspects

Greek police have solved a museum robbery that took place in February after a sting operation netted three suspects and recovered dozens of archaeological artefacts.

The three Greek men were arrested at a hotel in the city of Patras after one of them tried to sell a Bronze Age gold ring for 300,000 euros (£243,000) to an undercover officer posing as a potential buyer.

Officers were then dispatched to a village near Olympia, where they found the remaining artefacts buried inside a sack in a field.

"The discovery and arrest of the perpetrators of the robbery and the recovery of the stolen items are a great success," Culture Minister Costas Tzavaras said in a statement.

The stolen treasures included a 3,300-year-old gold ring, a bronze statuette of a victorious athlete, a 2,400-year-old oil jar, clay lamps, bronze tripods and miniature chariot wheels, as well as dozens of idols of charioteers, horses and bulls.

In February, two armed robbers made off with nearly 80 artefacts from a museum dedicated to the ancient Olympic Games. Police  had described them as "amateurs" who had turned up at the wrong museum.

A female guard who confronted them said they had been looking for a pair of golden wreaths, which were not kept in that particular collection.

Greece is rich in archaeological heritage, which has led to museums being targeted by antiquity smugglers for decades.

But the financial crisis rocking the country has led to hundreds of staff layoffs among archaeologists and guards, leaving museums vulnerable to theft.

The Olympia robbery badly embarrassed Greece at the time. The then culture minister offered to resign but was allowed to keep his post.