By Andria Kades
ANCIENT artefacts seized from a Bahamas flagged ship are not unique to Cyprus, police spokesman Andreas Angelides said on Thursday.
Speaking a day after officers seized 57 crates from the vessel docked at Limassol port since December 17, he said preliminary investigations archaeologists conducted showed the antiquities did not have a style unique to Cyprus.
Police are currently investigating the origins of the objects and whether it concerns illegal possession.
“We continue investigations. If the artefacts are not Cypriot and if it is proven they were not found within Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the Republic is obliged to protect antiquities under a number of treaties, and procedures will be followed depending on the findings,” Angelides told the Cyprus Mail.
The items have been transferred to a storage facility at the customs office where they will be guarded until investigations are completed.
Legal services have also been informed, Angelides added, and are following the course of investigations.
“What we need to stress is that the matter is being carefully handled.”
On Wednesday, police, acting on a tip secured a search and seizure warrant for the ‘Odyssey Explorer,’ an offshore supply ship which was active out at sea prior to December 17.
Assisted by antiquities department and customs officials, officers boarded the ship and discovered in its hold, which was locked, 57 crates in which several ancient artefacts were being held.
The artefacts were kept suspended in desalinated water, which according to the antiquities department is standard procedure for safe storage.
It is understood the artefacts were recovered from a shipwreck in waters east of the island.
Authorities were questioning 13 crew members but did not resort to arrests as it is not yet clear whether the ship was operating inside the Republic’s area of responsibility. It may have been operating inside Lebanese waters when it recovered the artefacts.
Police are trying to determine whether the ship had a permit to search for antiquities. If not, the crew could be liable for illegal treasure hunting and illegal possession of antiquities.