Dozens of ancient archaeological artifacts suspected to have been stolen were seized during this past weekend in Akko, northern Israel.
“Among the antiquities, there are artifacts dating to the Middle Bronze Age, that is to say approximately 4,000 years ago,” said Nir Distelfeld, an Israel Antiquities Authority inspector in the Prevention of Antiquities Theft Unit after examining the findings.
“The officers also seized forged coins and glassware which the criminals attempted to present as bona fide antiquities in order to raise the financial value,” Distelfeld added.
Last weekend, Akko police stopped a suspicious vehicle only to discover it was transporting dozens of artifacts, including some material suspected of having been looted from numerous archaeological sites in Israel.
Trading in antiquities in Israel requires a license sanctioned by the Antiquities Authority (IAA). Currently, however, only a small number of dealers are only allowed to trade items that that came into private hands prior to the year 1978.
Since that time, every antiquity discovered in Israel is property of the state and cannot be sold. According to the IAA Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Theft since the beginning of the year there have been approximately 20 suspects of antiquities robbery in the northern region alone.
“The artifacts that were retrieved were excavated destroying our history, in an attempt to sell them out of greed. These people are unlicensed traders, one of whom is also familiar to us from previous incidents,” explained Distelfeld.
The suspects were questioned and released on bail, but the investigation continues in order to discover the source of the items. In the coming days, at the end of the investigation, the case will be transferred to the legal department for the preparation of indictments.
The current punishment is two years in prison for illegal trade in antiquities and five years for damaging an excavation site.