Greece is being used as a passage to export illegal antiquities from war-torn Syria and Iraq into the West, experts warn amid reports of a clandestine police operation to net a Syrian suspect.
“Greece is a transit country for migrants and refugees and thus it is likely that antiquities from Syria and Iraq are being smuggled through the country,” according to Lynda Albertson, CEO of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art.
Illicit antiquities trade is believed to be a key source of income for the so-called Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Experts say looters use Turkey as a safe house for antiquities plundered in Iraq and Syria before they are exported to Austria, Germany, Britain and the US via Greece.
Turkish authorities have so far confiscated more than 2,000 looted ancient artifacts. Greek police have strengthened controls and are in close cooperation with Culture Ministry officials, Kathimerini understands.
Meanwhile, police were tipped off about a Syrian native based in Thessaloniki who was allegedly trying to sell ancient coins. Police conducted an investigation in the northern port city as well as Athens but no arrests were made.