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Greek sleuth tracks down looted ancient vases put up for sale

Featured Greek sleuth tracks down looted ancient vases put up for sale

In an internationally renowned art exhibition in London, two stolen ancient Greek vessels of the 4th century BC were sold, as revealed by a Greek expert to British newspaper The Guardian.

This case came to light by 44-year-old Christos , the Greek archeology "criminologist" who is based in Cambridge and reveals illegal antiquities trafficking rings across the globe.

According to the British newspaper, the two pots are lekythoi and were put up for sale at a starting price of £ 100,000 each. Ultimately, however, they were not sold.

In January 2015, a group of Italian carabinieri held a press conference in Rome during which they presented more than 5,000 ancient objects that were trafficked illegally. Their value was 50 million euros and these works were repatriated to Italy by Switzerland after the capture of collector and art dealer Gianfranco Betsina from Sicily. The same man had been connected with antiquities networks from all over the world and was finally convicted.

The debate about Betsina's stock was revived as it turned out that the two lekythoi had passed through his hands. Although the documents accompanying the precious vases do not mention the name of the Sicilian anywhere, Christos Tsirogiannis recognized the marble vases and related them to the condemned art dealer. The lekyothoi were among the approximately 1,200 collection items returned to the Swiss canton of Basle-Stant by the Italian authorities as it was considered that there was insufficient evidence to guarantee their right to property.

The canton sent the lekythoi for sale at the London Exhibition through a Swiss artist art dealer.

The British newspaper reports that many items from previous "dark" Betsina deals are still circulating on the legitimate market for ancient objects.

"The names of the people involved in this sale have been implicated in other affairs," said Tsirogiannis in the British newspaper, adding: "It's the usual pattern that I have identified several times in international cases of antique trafficking during my career".

At the same time, the Guardian stresses that the decision of the Swiss canton to sell these two vases in London raises questions while at the same time it asks why the Italian authorities decided to return the ancient objects to Switzerland. As the British newspaper explains, the Greek Ministry of Culture has been informed of the case by Interpol and it is now up to it to make a claim for the ownership of the lekythoi.