Over 11,000 trafficked artworks, artefacts seized in Europe crackdown

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Law enforcement officials across Europe arrested 60 people last year in a crackdown that retrieved over 11,000 trafficked artworks and artefacts including ancient books, sculptures and coins, Interpol said Thursday.

As part of an annual operation codenamed Pandora VII, forces led by Spain’s Guardia Civil police swooped on the art criminals from September 13 to 24 last year in a slew of European nations, the international police cooperation body said.

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The items recovered included 77 ancient books in Italy stolen from a monastery, thousands of historic coins in Poland, and 48 religious sculptures and other artefacts in Portugal, believed to have been nabbed in a string of church robberies in the 1990s and early 2000s.

In all, police from 15 countries took part: Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden.

France-based Interpol oversaw coordination between the different forces, along with the EU law enforcement cooperation agency Europol.

“Some 130 investigations are still ongoing, as a result of which more seizures and arrests are anticipated as investigators around the globe go after those spoiling and destroying cultural heritage,” Interpol said it a statement.

Pandora operations to recover stolen art and artefacts have been carried out every year since 2016.

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