A couple of months ago I wrote about the increase in looting in Greece, especially in the face of the financial crisis (see Greece: Antiquity Falls Victim to Economy). Today I want to share an update from the last week in the Greek courts.
In March 2012, Greek authorities arrested 53 members of an illicit antiquities trafficking ring. The ring operated in regions of Macedonia, Thessaly, and Central Greece.
The police recovered thousands of coins and antiquities spanning a wide range of eras. The most shocking news to come out of the arrests last year, was that of a 67 year-old retired customs officer, who established the network.
Last week, a Thessaloniki court sentenced the former customs officer to 22 years and a €50,000 fine. The sentences for the others arrested ranged from 2 to 9 years, and 9 acquittals.
Greece has a strong background in sentencing traffickers (when they make arrests), but the main reason why I find this case interesting is because I am actually not at all surprised that a former customs official create and participated in a looting network (I am not implying that customs officials loot or become looters). Given the economy in Greece, what would prevent an officer from participating in the illicit antiquities market? I actually think the credentials, and knowledge gained through the work, would offer background knowledge on what objects to target, but I am also a pessimist.
I think the court handed the heavy sentence because it wants to set precedence and deter others.