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Italian Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage Leads Efforts behind Major International Antiquities Seizure

July 12, 2018

Arrests and Seizures Follow a Multilateral Investigation Across Borders


Washington, D.C., July 12, 2018 —The Antiquities Coalition commends General Fabrizio Parrulli and the Italian Carabinieri for dealing a major blow to the illicit antiquities trade in a massive sting operation that spanned four countries and resulted in several arrests and antiquities seizures.

On July 4th at 4:00AM, over 250 police officers simultaneously searched 40 houses in the Italian regions of Sicily, Calabria, Piedmont, and Apulia, along with houses in Ehningen, Germany, London, United Kingdom, and Barcelona, Spain. Twenty-three suspects were detained, and over 25,000 archeological items, worth EUR 40 million (nearly $47 million USD), were seized. The Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale (“Carabinieri TPC”) spearheaded this international effort carried out with support from authorities in Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom, all supported by Europol. The case highlights the importance of multilateral coordination in combating the illicit antiquities trade and also illustrates what can be achieved when the focus shifts from repatriation to dismantling criminal networks through prosecution.

The Antiquities Coalition has long called for such policies. Recommendations in our #CultureUnderThreat Task Force report include shifting the focus from the seizure and repatriation of antiquities to dismantling criminal networks through prosecution. Another of our recommendations is for the United States Department of Justice or equivalent bodies to appoint designated prosecutors to bring criminal cases against individuals and organizations involved in the illicit antiquities trade.

Founded in 1969, and largely regarded as the preeminent leader in combating the destruction of cultural heritage, the Carabinieri TPC works to combat theft, illegal excavations of archaeological sites, and trafficking and counterfeiting of stolen property. To date, the Carabinieri TPC has investigated over 35,000 individuals and detained over 1,000. The organization also maintains a database of paramount importance that stores millions of images and files relating to stolen artifacts. The Carabinieri TPC is also instrumental in providing training for judges, prosecutors, police, customs officials, and experts both in Italy and abroad.

About the Antiquities Coalition 
To protect our shared heritage and global security, the Antiquities Coalition is leading the international campaign against cultural racketeering, the illicit trade in ancient art and artifacts. We champion better law and policy, foster diplomatic cooperation, and advance proven solutions with public and private partners worldwide. We are working toward a future when the past is preserved for the next generation, not looted, smuggled, and sold to finance crime, conflict, and terror. Learn more at

Tess Davis, Executive Director
The Antiquities Coalition