Greece to probe treasure mystery

Greece will seek an investigation into the provenance of thousands of antiquities believed to have been placed in storage abroad by a controversial British antiquities dealer, the government said yesterday. This followed the publication in the Sunday Eleftherotypia of a report that Greek antiquities could be among an estimated 17,000 ancient artifacts stored in over 30 locations in different countries by Robin Symes, who has been linked with antiquities illegally excavated and exported from Italy. The Eleftherotypia said a London court has ordered the seizure of Symes’s assets following a lawsuit by the heirs of the trader’s Greek lover and business associate, Christos Michailidis, who died in a freak accident in 1999. «The data is amazing and I have already instructed the Greek archaeological service, in cooperation with our embassy in London and UNESCO, to launch all procedures for an inspection of the finds,» Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos told journalists yesterday. «We may find ourselves before a very important network, either of receivers of ancient artifacts stolen from Greek museums or of illegal excavation from Greek archaeological sites.» Calling the Eleftherotypia story «unprecedented,» Venizelos said Greece «is obliged to investigate all this and we will take all legal action in cooperation with international bodies and other countries.»