Italian arrested with hoard of ancient coins

An Italian with suspected links to international antiquities-smuggling rings has been caught in northern Greece with a hoard of illegally excavated ancient coins and other artifacts, police said yesterday. Following a tip-off, Mario Vonnia, 59, was arrested in a house in the Thracian town of Komotini, in possession of 619 gold, silver and copper coins dating from the sixth century BC to the Ottoman occupation. A thorough search of the house revealed another 49 artifacts – including pottery shards and copper jewelry – hidden away in various caches, together with a pistol and ammunition. Police believe the suspect intended to smuggle the antiquities abroad. Vonnia was charged with breaches of the law on antiquities and firearms. All Greek antiquities are state property, and only registered collectors may hold ancient artifacts.