NEW DELHI: Major international art trafficking crackdown results in the arrest of 60 people and the recovery of 11,049 stolen artefacts across 14 European countries. The operation, known as Pandora VII, was led by Spain’s Guardia Civil, with the support of Europol and INTERPOL.
Pandora VII lasted from 13 to 24 September 2022 and involved thousands of checks carried out at various airports, ports, and border crossing points, as well as in auction houses, museums, and private houses. Two cyber patrol weeks were also organized, in May and October respectively, with over 8,495 checks conducted online, resulting in 4,017 stolen goods being seized.
As a result of Pandora VII, 130 investigations are still ongoing, and more seizures and arrests are anticipated as investigators around the globe go after those spoiling and destroying cultural heritage.
The recovery of the stolen artefacts includes 77 ancient books in Italy, a Roman marble bust of a woman in Spain, over 3,000 ancient coins in Poland, 48 religious sculptures and other religious artefacts in Portugal, and 13 archaeological artefacts from the Russian Federation seized in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The following countries took part in Pandora VII: Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Europol played a crucial role in the operation, facilitating information exchange and providing analytical and operational support. Through its I-24/7 secure communication system, INTERPOL connected countries participating in the exchange of information, supporting the entire operation with a dedicated expert to double-check searches against INTERPOL’s Stolen Works of Art Database.
Operation Pandora, first launched in 2016, is an annual law enforcement operation carried out in the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT) framework. The success of Pandora VII is a testament to the international cooperation between law enforcement agencies and the dedication to preserving cultural heritage.
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