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Cyprus

Stolen artefacts to be returned within a month

The 34 artefacts from the occupied areas judged to be of Cypriot heritage by a Munich court will be repatriated within a month, the Attorney-general’s office said on Tuesday.

The 34 items that will be returned to Cyprus include murals, manuscripts and a handwritten homiliarium as well as 10 prehistoric relics.

In a statement, the AG’s office said it would continue the legal fight for 49 other items, for which in the same civil action Munich’s Higher Regional Court ruled on Monday that their provenance could not be proved to be Cypriot beyond a reasonable doubt.

The 49 relics include 14 ecclesiastical icons in the Russian painting style as well as a number of prehistoric artefacts.

For these, Cypriot authorities had furnished all the evidence at their disposal, including the findings of two experts, but the Munich court decided they could not be definitively associated with Cyprus’ cultural or religious heritage.

Aware that this might be the case, the statement said, Cypriot authorities had long before the court’s decision pre-emptively initiated another legal process to ensure retrieval of the 49 items.

As such, these relics are not to be returned to Turkish art dealer Aydin Dikmen. Rather, they are to be auctioned for an amount up to the €0.5m awarded to the Republic for legal expenses in its protracted litigation against Dikmen.

With the latest – partial – victory in the Munich court, Cyprus has recovered a total of 207 artefacts found in Dikmen’s possession.

The Attorney-general is the Republic’s legal adviser. The case is being handled on behalf of the Republic by a German law firm.

An estimated 20,000 religious, historic and prehistoric artefacts were smuggled out of Cyprus in the seventies and eighties.

In 1997 Dikmen was found in possession of several thousand items from various countries of which Cyprus laid claim to around 300. The estimated worth at the time of all of the items found in Dikmen’s possession was put at more than $40 million.

Dikmen was arrested in a sting operation in Munich, where he lived, after dozens of antiquities were found hidden behind fake walls and under the floors in two apartments he occupied. In addition to the frescoes and icons, Bavarian police also found statues, terracotta pots and coins.

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