Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Italian police recover dozens of looted artifacts

Source: International Herald Tribune

ROME: Police in Rome said Tuesday they recovered dozens of looted artifacts, including a fresco believed to have been stripped from an ancient Roman villa.

Police were investigating 31 people who allegedly operated in Italy and France as part of a European art trafficking ring, a police statement said. No arrests had been made.

The remains of the fresco, which was stolen in the 1970s, are believed to belong to the 1st century A.D. villa of the Emperor Nero's wife Poppea in a site near Pompeii, police said in the statement.

The villa is in the area hit by the eruption in A.D. 79 of Mount Vesuvius, which killed thousands of people and buried Pompeii and neighboring towns in 6 meters (20 feet) of volcanic ash.

Also recovered were two 4th century B.C. vases from the southern region of Apulia and other pottery of Greek origin imported millennia ago by the Etruscan civilization in central Italy.

Italian police said the items turned up in collections in Switzerland, France and Spain and were recovered with the help of local authorities.

Calls to police for details were not answered.

During a raid on a house in Milan, police also seized 22 forgeries of paintings by artists including Renoir, Picasso, Modigliani, Monet and Degas, the statement said.

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