Friday, August 8, 2008

Alleged smugglers of ancient artifacts to be tried

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Ten people will be tried for allegedly smuggling 2,000-year-old gold bracelets and other artifacts out of Romania and selling them abroad, prosecutors said Thursday.

The artifacts — ancient jewelry and coins — were stolen between 1996 and 2005 from Sarmizegetusa Regia, a government-controlled, UNESCO-recognized archaeological site in northwestern Romania, and sold on the international black market, the prosecutors said. Some items were later found in the United States and Switzerland, and brought back home.

The prosecutors' 157-page statement said the 10 defendants have been charged with illegally digging at a historical site, concealing stolen goods and stealing items of national heritage.

The defendants include a Serb, a Briton and a Frenchman, the statement said. The trial is scheduled to begin in November.

The most valuable objects stolen were 15 spiral-shaped gold bracelets made by the Dacians, the forefathers of Romanians. Nine have been recovered, worth at least euro3 million (US$4.64 million), the statement said.

The prosecutors said the leaders of the ring were Horia Camil Radu, who holds dual Romanian and British citizenship, and Serbian Ilic Ljubisa.

Radu, who moved to Britain to escape the investigation, and Ljubisa, who belongs to a trafficking network based in Zurich, will be tried in absentia, the statement said.

The dual French-Romanian defendant was identified as Ovidiu Laszlo Olah, 37.

More than 30 other people are still being investigated.

This will be the second trial of people accused of smuggling Dacian artifacts. The first, which began in 2005, is still under way.

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