Italian authorities on Wednesday announced the recovery of rare antiquities seized during raids by Swiss police at the warehouses of a Basel-based Sicilian art dealer, according to media reports. The antiquities, believed to be worth nearly $58 million, had allegedly been looted from Italy over the last decade and smuggled across the border.
“This is by a long shot the biggest recovery in history in terms of the quantity and quality of the archaeological treasures,” Mariano Mossa, a senior official of Carabinieri, Italy’s national military police, reportedly said.
The recovered items include over 5,000 vases, bronze statues and frescoes, some of which are nearly 3,000 years old, police officials reportedly said. They were found during an investigation into the activities of Gianfranco Becchina, a Sicilian art dealer, and his wife. The couple is believed to be part of a worldwide antiquities' trafficking network.
Authorities also recovered an inventory of smuggled Italian antiquities along with photos, fake receipts and forged provenance papers during the raid, according to media reports.
The artifacts, which were displayed at the Terme di Diocleziano National Roman Museum in Rome on Wednesday, will now be “returned to where they were found,” Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report. Police officials reportedly said that the recovered antiquities would be sent to museums in southern Italy.