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Looted antiquities and mosaics from Pompeii and ancient sarcophagi found in Switzerland

Ian Harvey

There has been a recent discovering in Switzerland that involves hundreds of looted antiquities, including mosaics from Pompeii and ancient sarcophagi. It is all supposedly associated with a London art dealer named Robin Symes.

It was all located in a storage unit in Geneva. A specialist unit of Italian police dealing with art theft discovered 45 large crates of unimaginable archaeological treasure. Police officers seemed to have confirmed that it was all stored under a false name, but now think it belonged to Symes.

Furthermore, the police were able to show enough evidence to convince a Swiss judge that the relics were stolen. In fact some of the artifacts had already been on the blacklist.

An Italian policeman had photographs of them among thousands of others in his possession. In 1995, he was found dead under suspect circumstances while under investigation for art trafficking.

According to the Italian newspaper the priceless artifacts discovered in Geneva included classical sculptures, Roman frescos and sarcophagi. In addition, there were thousands of fragments of an entire wall of an Etruscan temple.

Rome Carabinieri’s specialist artistic heritage squad (who hunt tomb raiders and smugglers) had a spokesperson confirm that the operation in Geneva did in fact take place last week. The police had already been on the hunt for a very rare piece that’s been missing called the Sarcophagus of the Spouses, which looks like one in the Louvre. The police had become interested in the Swiss deposit as a result.

Symes is known as London’s most successful art dealer. He was accused of being involved in an international network of tomb raiders and dealers who dealt with antiquities valued at millions of pounds out of Italy. “The Medici Conspiracy” was published in 2006.

The book was authored by journalist Peter Watson’s who described Symes as a deceitful dealer who sold them to collectors and museums. He even sold to the Getty Museum located in Los Angeles.

Symes became incredibly wealthy and he owned multiple houses in London, New York and the Greek Islands, as well as luxury cars such as a Bentley and a Rolls Royce. In 1999, Symes became bogged down by a contested legal battle with his family.

It started right after his partner Christo Michaelides, heir to a Greek shipping fortune, passed away. Symes went bankrupt in 2003, then in 2005 he landed himself in prison for seven months for contempt of court.

The Geneva prosecutor’s office confirmed that the antiques were found in a warehouse after 15 years of being labeled under the name of an offshore company.

It released a statement that said, “45 crates of exceptional pieces originating from illegal excavations have been returned to Italy with the cooperation of Geneva prosecutors.

The pieces were brought there from the United Kingdom by a once prominent English art dealer, whose name has surfaced in several art trafficking cases. An Italian expert concluded that the remains came from illegal excavations at an ancient Etruscan necropolis in the Umbria/Lazio area.”

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