More than 4600 items, including antique amphorae, coins, ornaments, ceramics and friezes have been seized in an international operation carried out under the supervision of the Special Prosecutor’s Office, Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry said on October 30.
In the operation, eight people were taken into custody in Bulgaria and one in the UK, the statement said.
The operation was carried out on October 25 and involved Bulgaria’s anti-organised crime squad, the division in charge of acting against trafficking in objects of cultural value, as well as officers from Bulgaria’s towns of Pleven, Lovech, Vratsa, Montana and Blagoevgrad.
The Interior Ministry, disclosing details of the international operation, said that participants in the illegal scheme in Bulgaria were part of an international ring involved in smuggling items found in illegal treasure hunting in Bulgaria.
Initial information was that the illegally-traded items were destined for illicit private collections.
During the operation, 12 addresses and five cars were searched.
In the course of the proceedings, about 3800 antique coins, three antique amphorae, more than 600 antique objects, including fibulae, arrowheads, parts of chariots, statuettes, were seized, along with 121 antique rings and other jewellery, 52 antique needles and arrows; 32 ceramic and glass vessels of various shapes and sizes; five stone pieces and friezes.
Investigators found 40 000 leva (about 20 000 euro) and 10 000 euro in cash, and records connected to deliveries to the UK and a large number of documents certifying sales at auction houses in Western Europe, as well as lists of items specifically sold, items and prices.
At a location where three people were detained at the time of a transaction, namely an office of a trading company, most of the items and coins arranged in boxes were found packed and ready for shipment to London.
Also found were numerous documents certifying sales at various auction houses in the British capital, hand-written lists of items, prices and photographs of artifacts sold.
(Photos: Bulgarian Interior Ministry press centre)