Coins returned to Greece

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photo of Greek coins on tiny easels. Courtesy HSI

 SAN FRANCISCO – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) repatriated 10 Greek coins to the Government of Greece, Tuesday, during a reception at the San Francisco Greek Consulate.

The 10 coins were allegedly smuggled out of various Aegean islands such as the Island of Samos. The island of Samos is not covered by modern structures and has a lot of open, unprotected fields. These unexcavated archaeological sites are subject to the illegal use of metal detectors by collectors who remove artifacts, such as coins, for unlawful sale and profit.

In late August 2016, HSI detained a FedEx package with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the FedEx facility in Memphis, Tennessee. The shipment originated from a Munich-based, online coin dealer with previous violations for selling suspicious antiquities. This shipment contained five coins.

According an analysis of data collected by the Customs and Border Protection Laboratory in San Francisco, the coins were determined to be authentic Ancient Greek artifacts.

In September 2016, Keller interviewed the buyer of the intercepted package. During this interview, the buyer informed Keller that he made a purchase from the same seller a few months earlier for five other coins. Subsequently, the previously purchased coins were also evaluated and found to be Greek artifacts.

All 10 coins are estimated to be dated as early as 600 BCE and were minted in various locations throughout the Aegean Islands.

According to Greek Cultural Heritage Law, artifacts in the ground within Greece are the property of the Government of Greece and are not allowed to be removed for reasons other than Archaeological study. The lack of provenance documents and the low price of the coins were facts that supported the assessment that the coins were smuggled out of Greece.

In July 2011, The U.S. and Greece entered in to a Bilateral Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding with Greece to restrict the importation of carious cultural property from the Upper Paleolithic Period (approximately 2,000 B.C) through the 15th century A.D.

On May 10, 2019, the Office of International Trade-Regulations Rulings issued a decision to transfer the forfeited coins to HSI for the purpose of repatriation to the Government of Greece.

Marble sarcophagus piece returned to Greece

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photo courtesy Manhattan District Attorney’s Office

An ancient marble sarcophagus fragment to the Hellenic Republic during was returned Greece during a repatriation ceremony Feb. 10, 2017, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

As part of an ongoing joint investigation in January, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office seized pursuant to a search warrant the ancient marble sarcophagus fragment from a gallery in Midtown Manhattan, where it was displayed as the centerpiece. The item, which originally dates back to 200 A.D. and depicts a battle between Greek and Trojan warriors, was stolen from Greece in 1988. The artifact was then smuggled abroad and transported through Europe before finally landing in New York. 

Once presented with evidence of the theft, the Manhattan-based art gallery forfeited the item willingly, and the repatriation ceremony represents the return of the ancient sarcophagus fragment to Greece, where it will be displayed for public view and research at the National Archeological Museum of Athens.

Stolen Art Wednesday: Cauldron Gryphon

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Cauldron Gryphon. Photo courtesy of FBI National Stolen Art File.

Cauldron Gryphon. Photo courtesy of FBI National Stolen Art File.

This week, we’re featuring a griffon — or in this case, a “gryphon” — head that used to adorn a cauldron and is currently in the FBI’s National Stolen Art File.

There are few details in the public entry on the FBI’s Web page, but it is described as made of metal with the dimensions of 18 cm by 8.4 cm. No origin or time period is given, and there is no information on the location, date or circumstances of the theft.

Here’s what the file says:

Archaic metal gryphon head possible from a cauldron used for decoration. Open mouth with clear opening. Framed bulging almost shaped eyes. Raised ears with tips broken. Raised section in the middle of forehead is broken. Swollen in area where neck meets head. Neck gradually enlarges as it goes downward. Whole object scaled and hollow.

With a little bit of research, we found a number of similar examples, usually made of cast bronze from 7th Century Greece. The griffin heads decorated the rim of cauldrons in temples. More than 600 survived, many found in temple of Zeus at Olympia and the Heraion (temple of Hera, who was Zeus’s sister/wife (yep, that’s Greek mythology for you)) on the island of Samos.

For more information and to report recovered objects in the NSAF, contact: National Stolen Art File Art Theft Program, Room 3247 Federal Bureau of Investigation 935 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington, DC 20535 Tel: (202) 324-6668

Greek coins returned after seized in investigation

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HSI New York, Manhattan District Attorney return ancient coins to Greece

NEW YORK —Five ancient coins, some dating as far back as 515 B.C., were returned to Greece during a repatriation ceremony Monday in New York. The cultural repatriation stemmed from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

The coins were obtained during the investigation and prosecution of a case involving the collection of stolen coins in New York. The returned coins will be displayed for public view and research at the Numismatic Museum of Athens.

On Jan. 3, 2012, HSI New York and HSI Attaché Rome arrested Arnold Peter Weiss, 54, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. At the time of his arrest, Weiss, a Rhode Island resident, believed himself to be in possession of two stolen dekadrachma from Agrigento, Sicily. Under Italian law, the removal of any artifacts discovered in the region after 1909 is prohibited by the country’s cultural heritage and protection laws. Weiss, however, believed the stolen coins to be worth millions of dollars, and planned to trade them at a New York auction.


Greece goes after pirates in court

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We don’t hear much about the prosecution of pirates these days, so we found this INTERPOL release (below) interesting. The Greek tanker Irene SL was hijacked by the Mandek group, a Somali pirate band, in February 2011 carrying 2 million barrels of crude . After serving a stint as a pirate mothership, she was released in April 2011 when the hijackers reportedly received a $13 million ransom, according to the Somalia Report news website. Now the Greeks are taking pirates to court for the first time.

Greece to prosecute first maritime piracy case with evidence gathered by INTERPOL team
Dec. 12, 2012

LYON, France – Evidence gathered by an INTERPOL Incident Response Team following the release of the hijacked oil tanker Irene SL in April 2011 is to be used by Greece in its first maritime piracy prosecution.

The announcement came during a meeting between Chief of the Hellenic Police Lieutenant General Nikolaos Papagiannopoulos and INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble at the world police body’s General Secretariat headquarters to identify ways for additional support to be provided to the Greek police.

The response team, supported by the South African Police Service and in coordination with European Union Naval Force and INTERTANKO, was deployed to Durban in South Africa to conduct a crime scene investigation and debriefing of the hostages on board the Irene SL, following its release by Somali pirates 58 days after the vessel was hijacked off the coast of Oman.

Several of the crew members on board were also able to identify four of their captors from an INTERPOL photo album on maritime piracy, containing images provided by member states and naval forces operating in the Gulf of Aden and the Western Indian Ocean.