Greek police recover stolen Olympia artefacts, arrest three

Sat Nov 24, 2012 10:05am EST
 

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek police have recovered antiquities stolen from a museum in Ancient Olympia and arrested three people, police said on Saturday.

The robbery in February, which came just after a theft at the country's National Gallery, prompted outrage from many arts and culture workers who said budget cutbacks from austerity measures had left Greece's vast art treasures at risk.

During the robbery, armed thieves overpowered a female guard and made off with about 70 bronze, pottery and other artefacts at the museum in Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games.

Many of the artefacts stolen were found buried in a field about 3 km from the archaeological site in the southern Pelopponese region, police said. The three people arrested were charged with robbery of antiquities.

"Despite the difficult economic situation we are not being lax on security issues, especially over our cultural heritage," Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias told a news conference.

Police said the men were arrested after one of them tried to sell an ancient gold ring to an undercover policeman for 1.5 million euros ($2 million). The antiquities will be returned to the museum next week.

($1 = 0.7717 euros)

(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Writing by Deepa Babington; Editing by Alison Williams)