52 arrested in antiquities investigation
AUTHORITIES have arrested 52 people in a major crackdown on a suspected ring of antiquities looters from dozens of sites in southern Spain, the Spanish Civil Guard said Wednesday.
The raids took place in several provinces, including Seville, Madrid and Barcelona, where police searched at least 68 homes, said Civil Guard spokesman Jose Manuel Escudero. About 300,000 pieces have been recovered, including gold coins, vessels, amphoras and other objects, he added.
He said investigators consider the operation to be the largest against archeological looting worldwide.
Among those arrested were 30 suspected thieves, 13 middlemen and nine collectors, who appeared to have been motivated by investment rather than artistic interest, Escudero said. Those arrested were not immediately identified.
The investigations stem from documentation seized in 2005 in which 10 people were arrested for looting underwater archeological sites off the coast of Cadiz, the Civil Guard said in a statement.
It said the suspects arrested Wednesday made daily trips to the sites they had located with sophisticated metal detectors and excavation manuals, and did the looting at night.