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Greek Authorities bust antiquities smuggling ring

Police officers from the Cultural Heritage and Antiquities Department have apprehended three men, aged 54, 69 and 52, for suspected antiquities smuggling. The charges against the trio include establishing a criminal organisation and violating laws pertaining to antiquities and possession of weapons.

The arrests occurred last week following an undercover police operation, where an officer posed as a mediator for a potential buyer. Initially, the 54-year-old provided photographs of antiquities for sale, and an agreement was reached to sell three items for 5,000 euros each. They arranged to meet last Thursday morning at the Megara Rest Area near Corinth, where they were apprehended.

During physical and on-site investigations, among other items, a rare gold coin, a Stater of Ptolemy I of Egypt from the 4th century BC with a diameter of 18 millimeters, and a torso of a kouros measuring 50 X 34.5 centimeters, were discovered. The kouros torso represents a fragment of an ancient statue of immeasurable value. A similar kouros fragment had previously been attempted to be sold at auction in the US for $20,000,000.

The seized antiquities were presented to an archaeologist from the Ephorate of Antiquities of Western Attica and to a numismatist specializing in rare ancient coins. Subsequently, they were entrusted for safekeeping and final assessment to the Archaeological Museum of Megara and the Numismatic Museum of Athens.

It is believed that the same smuggling ring had attempted to sell a coin depicting the god Pan last year. The transaction on September 16 was thwarted by an operation of the Cultural Heritage and Antiquities Department, which had been investigating the case for months.

Upon realizing they were under surveillance, the smugglers fled the scene, leaving behind 31 antiquities wrapped in blankets near the Faliro Indoor Arena, where the Athens 2004 Olympics taekwondo events took place.