The island’s police force said on Saturday that they had been in charge of coordinating the Europe-wide police operation codename ‘Pandora’ into the trafficking of cultural goods which was carried out over the last few days.
Police say they conducted a total of 44 searches of homes and premises in various districts to detect illegally held antiquities and metal detectors. During these investigations, a total of 1383 artefacts along with 13 metal detectors were seized.
“As part of EU actions for combating organised and serious international crime, a common European police operation called ‘Pandora’ was held between November 7 and 11, 2016,” a statement said.
“The aim of the operation, which was organised by Europol, was to combat theft and illegal trafficking of cultural goods. Twenty member states of the European Union, Unesco, the general secretariat of Interpol and the United States took part. Cyprus, together with Spain, was the coordinator of the operation across Europe.”
Three men and a woman were arrested in raids on three properties in the Limassol area. One of the men was remanded on Thursday in connection with ancient artefacts registered to, but found not to be in his collection, as well as a large number of illegally held archaeological objects.
A search of a home in Pissouri uncovered 1,145 clay pots and other items of metal and stone dating back to the Copper Age and Roman era. At an Erimi residence police discovered 157 objects which included ecclesiastical art, prehistoric artefacts and items from the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
At a house in Mouttagiaka, the authorities found 22 copper coins from Roman and early Christian times.
Apart from the unregistered artefacts found to be in the remanded man’s possession, he kept a collection for which he had a licence from the director of antiquities. However, police say that nine of these items were missing without him being able to give adequate explanations.
“Inspections and investigations were carried out in all districts and at the airports and post offices, as well as the checkpoints leading to and from the occupied areas,” the statement said. Police patrols were also intensified around sensitive archaeological sites.”
In searches carried out at post offices, customs officers discovered and seized 40 ancient artefacts, while in checks carried out on 336 vehicles passing to and from the north, and over 30 thousand pieces of luggage at the airports, nothing incriminating was found.
“In Cyprus, the decisive role in the successful outcome of the operation was played by the local Europol unit, through which information was exchanged, both at a national and European level, along with the local coordinator for European multidisciplinary platform against criminal threats (Empact) issues,” the police statement concluded.