Greek politicians are involved in the illegal trade of ancient artifacts, a man claiming to be a former middleman in the international antiquity-smuggling network said in a radio program aired yesterday by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
The former looter, who became a police informer, did not name any politicians. However, the man who identified himself as “Yiannis” said he was adamant that political figures are involved in antiquities smuggling.
“It starts at the top, from politicians down to ordinary people and the motivation is always money,” he told the BBC Radio 4’s Crossing Continents program.
“Everybody knows it’s illegal. There’s dirt on all layers of Greek society. I repeat: a lot of dirt,” he added.
Yiannis said that some artifacts such as Cycladic figurines can be sold for millions of euros.
The illegal trade in antiquities became a major issue earlier this year, when the Illegal Antiquities Department of the Attica Police raided the Paros home of Marion True, the former curator of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and seized unregistered antiquities.
True is currently on trial in Rome for allegedly receiving stolen antiquities from Italy. She denies the charges.
In April, officers seized hundreds of unregistered artifacts at a villa on the tiny island of Schinoussa, near Naxos, which was owned by the late Christos Michailidis, an antiquities dealer and a member of a wealthy shipping family.
The probe is being led by Giorgos Gligoris, the head of the Illegal Antiquities Department. He told the BBC that he would like more resources at his disposal.
“We have a total of 27 police. It is not enough and there should be more,” said Gligoris, who works undercover and does not appear in public. “I’d like more police obviously, and more cars, a helicopter perhaps and everything that modern technology provides.”
“They have all that in Italy an it shows in their success,” he added.