Eight men have been arrested in North Macedonia accused of participating in multiple illegal excavations across the country to sell antiquities abroad, police said Thursday.
The Interior Ministry said police had raided homes and other premises linked with the suspects at 10 locations in the southern town of Bitola and northwestern town of Tetovo.
They seized a large number of artifacts, including ancient figurines and jewelry, as well as firearms, metal detectors and computer hard drives, but gave no further details.
Officials from the office of public prosecution said the two main suspects, aged 60 and 71, allegedly led dozens of illegal excavations since May 2020 to supply buyers in Albania, Croatia, Greece, Serbia, Turkey and the United States.
They face charges that include forming a criminal organization and violating laws to protect antiquities, which carry a combined maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. The other six suspects face lesser charges.
The illegal excavation of North Macedonia’s ancient heritage has been going on for decades. [AP]