Five of the seven arrests were made in the provinces of Barcelona and Tarragona
36 Egyptian relics dating back around 3,800 years were temporarily placed on display in the Museo Arqueológico in Madrid this Wednesday after they were recovered by the Guardia Civil, who also arrested seven people in an operation codenamed “Hierática”.
The investigation began in June last year when officers at the port of Valencia discovered the items hidden inside a shipment of cheap crockery from Alexandria in Egypt, and it was soon established that the shipment was intended for an Egyptian national residing in Barcelona. In the end this individual was among the seven people arrested, five of them in Barcelona and Tortosa (province of Tarragona) and the other two in Egypt, and all will face charges related to pillaging archaeological treasures with the intention of placing them on the market in Spain and France.
In the course of the operation 27 banks and over 2,000 auction houses were placed under surveillance, and Europol seized 2,289 items of cultural interest.
The 36 pieces seized in Spain are estimated to have a market value of 300,000 euros, the most valuable being a figure representing the head of the warrior goddess Sekhmet which on its own could have been expected to fetch at least 100,000 euros. Sekhmet was revered in Memphis and Leontopolis as the goddess of fire, war, vengeance, healing and menstruation, and is depicted as having the head of a lioness.
It is believed that all the items were plundered from the archaeological sites at Saqqara and Mit Rahina, and they will be returned to Egypt when the trial which is now being prepared has ended.
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