Return of lost artifacts sought

Greece is intensifying its international campaign to reclaim artifacts illegally removed from the country, Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said yesterday. «Moves are being made to claim artifacts from different parts of the world,» Voulgarakis told a press conference without specifying which international artifacts, or museums, were being targeted. «There is a long list of items that Greece is in a position to claim and some action has been taken regarding these. But I am not yet in a position to make specific announcements,» the minister added. Voulgarakis also heralded the creation of the Central Council for Museums, a body which is supposed to help the ministry better organize its catalog of museums and sites and limit its spending. Last month, the director of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Michael Brand, said he would recommend the return of some of the four ancient artifacts which are on display at the museum and which Greece alleges were illegally removed from the country. The government believes these four artifacts – a gold wreath, a marble statue of a young woman dating to the 6th century BC, a votive relief and a funeral slab – are among thousands which have allegedly been removed from the country as part of a massive international antiquities smuggling ring. Greek police have cracked down on the illegal trade in antiquities over the past few months, conducting two raids on villas on the Aegean islands of Schinoussa and Paros. The owners of the villas on those two islands have been linked to the international art scene. In both raids, police discovered massive stashes of antiquities which had not been properly declared. Meanwhile, Voulgarakis also told reporters that the Central Council for Museums will help coordinate Greece’s hundreds of museums and ancient sites and help the Culture Ministry scrutinize its spending. «There is a general sense of chaos and disorder where museums are concerned,» Voulgarakis said. «How does a museum operate? If we can find a practical answer to this question, we can also bring the ministry’s books into some kind of order.»

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