Spanish police recover relics from Roman necropolis

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Spanish police have recovered dozens of archaeological relics, including many that were stolen from a Roman necropolis that was only uncovered after torrential rains in August, the interior ministry said Tuesday.

Four people were arrested suspected of theft, trafficking and pillaging several sites in Cordoba in southern Spain, it said in a statement.

One of them, a Belgian-Lebanese man arrested in the resort of Marbella, is suspected of presenting one of the items, the base of a marble column from the ancient Moorish city of Medina Azahara, for auction at Christie’s in London.

The item dates from the Caliphate of Cordoba, which ruled the Iberian peninsula in the 10th century. It had disappeared when it was stored in a warehouse.

Police were informed of the presence of the column in the auction, which led them to uncover a network trafficking in archaeological relics.

The item itself, which was valued at €150,000 ($200,000) was never recovered but is "now believed to be in a London museum," Antonio Tenorio, the head of the Spanish police unit in charge of recovering stolen relics and antiques, told a news conference.

Spanish police recovered a mosaic from Roman times, neolithic axes, and 800 Arab and Roman coins.

Most of the objects were stolen from three tombs in a necropolis in Cordoba dating to the first and fourth centuries AD.

Tenorio said "I don’t know the value of these objects" on the open market but said they are all of "high quality."

He said police were still searching for the mastermind behind the network.


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