NEWS

Cunning Greeks smuggle artifacts to boost finances

Smugglers who hunt antiquities become both investigators and intermediaries. Armed with the latest in metal detection machinery, the smugglers illegally dig at sites and graves all over the country. According to the latest data from the police’s anti-trafficking division for antiquities, in 2005 some 46 people were arrested and 490 archaeological artifacts recovered. In 2004, 40 antiquities smugglers were caught and 1,401 relics were recovered. «Half of Greece is involved in these [illegal] digs,» Gligoris revealed. «The returns are great. «But not,» he added wryly, «for certain farmers who find a clay pot and think they can raise their grandchildren with it.» Greek collectors don’t have the economic prowess of their colleagues abroad in order to build extremely large collections of rare items. Still, there are Greek homes which hold relics of unfathomable value and some of these homes have secured permits for the collection from the Central Archaeological Committee. Law 30/28 from 2002 gave the power to whoever deals with relics to declare them to the Archaeological Service without ramifications. The trade in smuggled archaeological antiquities has also helped those involved in forgeries. Forgers use specialized machinery equipped to produce expensive and high-end reproductions. Gligoris says his unit has discovered forgery factories in Nemea, but that this particular practice has not incurred a harsh enough punishment.