Bill aims to protect artifacts

Culture Minister Michalis Liapis yesterday unveiled a draft law which aims to curb a growing illegal trade in antiquities by intensifying patrols of archaeological sites and appointing a special prosecutor to handle certain cases. The bill, to be submitted in Parliament next month, foresees the creation of a database of antiquities and the application of Greek law in cases of alleged trafficking of domestic artifacts abroad. Liapis said the proposed crackdown «is a top priority,» noting that the illegal antiquities trade had grown «enormously» in recent years and is now the third most lucrative illicit trade after arms and drug trafficking. The legislation had been prepared by Liapis’s predecessor Giorgos Voulgarakis but its tabling in Parliament had been delayed due to September’s general elections. Liapis’s announcement yesterday came two days after an Athens court acquitted a former curator of the Los Angeles J. Paul Getty Museum of illegally acquiring an ancient Greek golden wreath, which has since been returned.