French customs stop trafficking in ancient coins looted in Turkey

Turkey  AFP - Geoffroy van der Hasselt
FEB 27, 2024 LISTEN
© AFP - Geoffroy van der Hasselt

French customs have uncovered trafficking in ancient coins looted in Turkey. More than 8,000 items were seized from a private individual in central France suspected of having already sold thousands of them.

After a three-year investigation, the French customs intelligence service (DNRED) has dismantled a major network trafficking in ancient coins, according to a report published by France Inter.

In the spring of 2022, customs agents discovered 8,597 coins "in a dwelling in central France", originating in the Anatolia region of Turkey, some of which dating back to the 6th century.

The coins were found all over the house: "In a television cabinet, in freezer bags, in boxes all over the flat", says one of the investigators, expert in trafficking in cultural goods.

More than 7,000 items are already lost in the wilderness, according to customs, whose total haul is estimated at more than €1.5 million for 15,000 objects.

A magic incantation plate and an exemption plate to ensure that imperial animals were not subjected to drudgery, a rare and priceless item, were also seized in the flat.

The main suspects were arrested in Turkey by the Turkish authorities. According to customs officials, their organisation was "worthy of drug traffickers".

An investigator specialising in trafficking of cultural goods described their methods in detail: "Generally, the pieces are looted in villages by people in fairly precarious situations.

The mafia will provide them with metal detectors so that they can search for treasures in their locality according to the stories they may have heard and which may have been passed down through the generations.

Once these materials have been recovered, collectors will go from village to village to buy these objects at a low price, and certainly not at the European market price".

The man from whose home the treasure was found is described as "just another man". He faces up to ten years' imprisonment and a €15 million fine for smuggling prohibited goods and possessing goods subject to documentary evidence.

He will soon be heard by the courts.
The items will be returned to Turkey through diplomatic channels.