Credit: Italian Culture Ministry
Off-duty police discover stolen Roman statue in Belgian antiques shop
Italian police recovered a stolen Roman statue after off-duty officers noticed it in a Belgian antique shop almost a decade after it was looted from an archeological site, according to authorities.
The headless marble statue of a "Togatus," from the 1st century BC, was stolen by unknown robbers about 10 years ago from Roman archeological site Villa Marini Dettina Park, according to Italy's Heritage Tutelage Carabinieri Unit.
Two off-duty police officers spotted the statue in an antique shop in Brussels' Sablon neighborhood while carrying out a separate investigation in Belgium, and, on their return to Italy opened an investigation into the artifact after becoming suspicious about its origins. The statue, police say, appeared damaged, most likely from tools used in digging.
The officers cross-referenced photographs they had taken in Belgium with a database detailing stolen artifacts and discovered its true origin.
The statue, worth around 100,000 euros ($119,668), was confiscated and returned to Italy in February, authorities said.
An investigation done with the cooperation of Belgian authorities revealed the illegal trafficking of cultural objects led by an Italian businessman who used a Spanish pseudonym and has been referred to Rome's Prosecutor office for receiving the stolen statue and exporting it, authorities said.
Italian authorities have long supported efforts to repatriate antiquities they say were illegally obtained and trafficked.