January 23, 2017

Operation Pandora - When multinational law enforcement agents collaborate, they are a force to be reckoned with.

A simple run down.

92 new investigations were initiated between October and November 2016 in which Europol joined forces with law enforcement authorities from 18 EU and non EU countries, including:

Bosnia and Herzegovina
the Netherlands
United Kingdom

Led by Cypriot and Spanish police, Operation Pandora aimed at dismantling criminal networks involved in cultural theft and exploitation, and identify potential links to other criminal activities. 

The joint investigations focused on cultural spoliation, both underwater and on land, and the illicit trafficking of cultural goods, with a particular emphasis on conflict countries.  

From its operational coordination centre in the Hague, Europol provided operational and analytical support 24/7 and facilitated the information exchange between law enforcement and supporting authorities.

Throughout the operation INTERPOL cross-checked objects against their stolen works of art database. The WCO facilitated communications and cooperation between law enforcement and concerned customs administrations and UNESCO contributed by providing training materials and offering recommendations to the participating countries.


During which, 3561 works of art and cultural goods were seized, almost half of which were archaeological objects; 500 archaeological objects were seized in Murcia, Spain, of which 19 were stolen in 2014 from the Museo de Arqueológia
in the southern Spanish city of Murcia. Cypriot police seized 1.383 antiquities and 13 metal detectors during 44 searches.  An additional 40 objects were found at the Post Office in in port city of Larnaca.

Additional objects mentioned in the police briefing include a marble Ottoman tombstone,  and a post-Byzantine-era icon depicting Saint George with two  saints, two Byzantine-period artefacts (one ring and one coin). 

During investigations of suspicious online advertisements 400+ coins from different periods were seized;

In total, 75 individuals have been arrested.

ARCA spoke with Michael Will of EUROPOL's O26 Focal Point Furtum about the arrests and he said

"Again the intelligence led  joint action on Cultcrime was another huge success. The impressive number of arrests and seizures all over Europe shows that the approach  of complementary cooperation between Law Enforcement Agencies of the key countries supported by powerful agencies and associations like Europol, Interpol, UNESCO and WCO is working better and better."

We agree!