Israel foils antiquities fence

13:43, May 19, 2011      

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The Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) on Wednesday announced that their anti-robbery unit had thwarted an attempt to fence and smuggle a haul of ancient coins and clay lamps out of the country.

The suspect, an expert in Egyptian history and culture who worked as a tour guide, received the items from robbers who plundered archaeological sites across Israel, and then allegedly sold the antiquities to American tourists while guiding them through the country.

Among the artifacts were coins from the Second Temple period ( between 500 BC to 70 AD), and 1,500-years-old clay lamps, which the tourists were trying to smuggle out of Israel.

Last week, members of the Custom's Drug Unit at the Eilat Airport intercepted a tour group, which the suspect was guiding, at the Taba border crossing before they left Israel.

During the search, about twenty members of the group were found in possession of dozens of stolen artifacts they had bought from the suspect, though he was not arrested in that moment.

The American university lecturer was detained at Ben-Gurion airport on Monday. During a search of his personal belongings, officials found dozens of ancient coins taken without a permit, as well as proof of the illegal sales of the antiquities.

The man was interrogated by IAA inspectors on suspicion of trafficking in antiquities without a permit, the sale of suspected stolen antiquities, and attempted illegal smuggling of antiquities from Israel.

Source: Xinhua
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