Treasure of Benghazi bank vault raided

October 31, 2011

The Telegraph on October 31, 2011 released the following:

“A priceless collection of nearly 8,000 ancient gold, silver and bronze coins was stolen by robbers who broke into a bank vault in the Libyan city of Benghazi.

The theft of the so-called Treasure of Benghazi, much of which dates from the time of Alexander the Great, is believed to have been one of the biggest in archaeological history.

Interpol has been alerted about the theft, which took place in March. Libya’s National Transitional Council is believed to have kept it quiet for fear of tarnishing their image at a time when they were engaged in a desperate battle for survival against the regime of Col Muammar Gaddafi.

Details of the robbery emerged at a conference held by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, held in Paris last week.

Metal storage cupboards at the National Commercial Bank of Benghazi were smashed open and the red wax seals on the wooden trunks housing the collection were broken after the gang drilled through a concrete ceiling.

The gang had concentrated on the ancient treasures, leaving items of lesser value untouched, according to The Sunday Times.

As well as 7,700 coins the haul included jewellery, medallions, bracelets, anklets, necklaces, earrings, precious stones, rings and gold armbands. Small monuments and figurines of bronze, glass and ivory were also stolen.

The treasure was excavated between 1917 and 1922 from the temple of Artemis in an ancient Roman city in Cyrene, near Benghazi.

UNESCO chief Irina Bokova described the theft as a “disaster”.

Hafed Walada, a Libyan archaeologist based at King’s College, London, said: “I have the feeling this must have been an inside job. The treasure was there for many years, not many people knew about it, and the robbers even ignored cash that was in the vault.

“In terms of Libya’s historical heritage, this was a major theft.”

In the months since it happened ancient gold coins have turned up repeatedly in Benghazi’s gold market, and in Egypt a farmer was caught with a three inch high gold figurine and 503 coins which may have come from the collection.

UNESCO has warned art dealers and police forces around the world to look out for pieces from the Treasure of Benghazi.

A fact-finding trip in September by UNESCO experts found that Libya’s rich historical heritage suffered little damage during the nine-month war, in part because Nato worked with experts to avoid bombing archaeological sites.

But with the country awash with guns and armed men, and little sign of authority, they are concerned that Roman, Greek and Phoenician sites on Libyan soil, some of the finest in the ancient world, could now be at risk from looters.”

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To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


INTERPOL issues alert following disappearance of cultural goods in Libya

September 28, 2011

INTERPOL on September 22, 2011 released the following:

“LYON, France – INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters has issued an alert to its 188 National Central Bureaus following the recent theft in Libya both of an archaeological collection known as “the Treasure of Bengasi” as well as three paintings taken from the British ambassador’s residence in Tripoli.

The alert was published as part of INTERPOL’s close partnership with UNESCO which has exposed the threats which Libyan cultural heritage is currently facing as a result of the ongoing civil unrest and armed conflict in the country. Risks include material damage as well as theft, looting and the subsequent illicit trafficking of cultural artifacts.

INTERPOL alert will highlight to the international community the wider risks involving Libya’s cultural heritage and is a call for countries to remain vigilant on the illegal trade of invaluable cultural treasures,” said Karl-Heinz Kind of INTERPOL’s Works of Art unit.

Recent civil unrest and armed conflict across North Africa and the Middle East has seen both the destruction and theft of significant cultural property and works of art. In this respect, INTERPOL has recorded the details of lost identifiable items in its Stolen Works of Art database which is publicly accessible via http://www.interpol.int/Crime-areas/Works-of-art/Works-of-art

The illicit traffic of cultural property is a worldwide increasing problem affecting not only the countries of origin of the cultural goods, but also the countries of transit and of final destination. INTERPOL through its National Central Bureaus and with the support and collaboration of international organizations, such as UNESCO, is making every effort possible to curb this criminal activity, so as to preserve and protect the cultural heritage of its member countries.”

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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INTERPOL Underlines Role of Concerted Action at UNESCO Forum on Cultural Heritage Trafficking

March 31, 2011

INTERPOL has marked the 40th anniversary of UNESCO’s Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property by highlighting the pivotal role of international collaboration against the illicit trafficking of cultural heritage during a UNESCO forum.

UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. UNESCO launched the World Heritage Convention in 1972 with the goal of protecting World Cultural and Natural Heritage. The idea for creating an international movement to protect world heritage emerged after World War I. The convention protects heritage by protecting cultural sites and conserving nature and it recognizes the fundamental need to preserve the balance of how people interact with nature.

Speaking on Tuesday at a special session which included UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, the Director of INTERPOL’s Specialized Crime Unit, Bernd Rossbach said that crimes linked to the circulation of cultural goods and to their sale were of major concern to the international community as he focused on ‘the role of information-sharing and international co-operation against the theft and trafficking of cultural heritage’, including through INTERPOL’s range of global tools and services.

With the event aiming to evaluate and elaborate strategies to enhance the Convention’s implementation in the light of current trends in the illicit trafficking of cultural heritage, the meeting held an emergency review of measures to protect cultural heritage in North Africa following unrest in the region. Following this review, stakeholders are to deploy specialists to the affected region as part of a joint action plan to address pressing issues.

In this respect, INTERPOL’s Specialized Crime Unit Director encouraged concerned member states and agencies to widen the dissemination of information on stolen or retrieved cultural heritage to INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France.

In particular, Rossbach highlighted the role of INTERPOL’s database of stolen cultural objects in fighting against their illicit trade as well as of the world police body facilitating specialized training on protecting and securing cultural heritage.

To view the INTERPOL press release in its entirety click here.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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