Thousands of archaeological artefacts and artworks were recovered in a pair of major international policing operations in 2019, Interpol said on Wednesday.
“Some 101 suspects were also arrested in the operations, led by international police organisation Interpol, European police organisation Europol, the World Customs Organization and Spain’s Guardia Civil police force,’’ Interpol said.
Among the items retrieved were 971 “cultural objects” seized by Afghan customs at Kabul airport before they were due to be shipped off to Istanbul in Turkey.
Spanish and Colombian police retrieved very rare looted pre-Columbian objects at Madrid airport, including a unique Tumaco gold mask and several gold figurines and items of ancient jewellery.
Follow-up searches in the Colombian capital Bogota led to the seizure of a further 242 pre-Columbian objects, which Interpol said was “the largest ever seizure in the country’s history.”
“The operations took place in the second half of 2019, but could only be revealed now for operational reasons,’’ Lyon-based Interpol said.
They included a “cyberpatrol week” led by Italy’s Carabinieri military police, where officers “mapped active targets and developed intelligence packages,” leading to the seizure of 8,670 cultural objects on sale online.