Police bust ring selling illicit icons

A 61-year-old man believed to have stolen and sold dozens of religious icons from churches across the country and sold them to an ecclesiastical goods store in Plaka, central Athens, has been arrested along with the 43-year-old shopkeeper, police said yesterday. A total of 113 extremely valuable icons – up to 500 years old – were discovered following a raid on the store and a warehouse in Kallithea, according to the police, who are now seeking a 68-year-old man believed to have worked with the 61-year-old. Officers carried out the raids last week following a tip-off that the owner of the store, which is directly behind the Athens Cathedral, had been due to negotiate the sale of two icons from the store for around 40,000 euros. The raids also yielded 21 ancient artifacts, including statuettes and amphorae believed to be the products of illegal excavations. The Culture Ministry has set up a committee to conduct a more detailed assessment of the icons and artifacts.