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November 18, 2019

Carabinieri, EUROPOL , EUROJUST investigation, code named: "Achea"

Image Credit:  Carabinieri TP
NOTE: This article has been updated after the conclusion of the press conference. 

Today at 10:30, the Carabinieri Provincial Command of Crotone, a port city in Calabria, southern Italy, and the region's Public Prosecutor held a press conference to announce the results of a multicountry operation into the illicit trafficking of antiquities which feeds the clandestine market for ancient art.  This after having carried out an order for the application of precautionary measures, issued by the Judge of the Crotone Court, at the request of the local Public Prosecutor who coordinated the investigations.

Begun in 2017 and carried out in coordination with EUROPOL and EUROJUST, the investigation, named "Achea" after the first Hellenic population, involved 350 officers from Italy, France, Germany, Serbia, and the United Kingdom working together to reconstruct an entire criminal chain of actors responsible for the illegal exportation of archaeological material from the areas around Crotone to market countries in Europe.

Image Credit:  Europol
Inside Italy, searches were carried out by the Carabinieri Provincial Commands of Bari, Benevento, Bolzano, Caserta, Catania, Catanzaro, Cosenza, Crotone, Ferrara, Frosinone, Latina, Matera, Milan, Perugia, Potenza, Ravenna, Reggio Calabria, Rome, Siena, Terni, Viterbo as well as with the support of the 8th Carabinieri Core of Vibo Valentia and the helicopter squadron "Cacciatori di Calabria".  Outside Italy's borders, additional searches were conducted by the French Central Police Office for the fight against the international traffic of Cultural Heritage (OCBC -  (Office central de lutte contre le trafic de biens culturels) in France, the German Bavarian LKA (Bayerisches Landeskriminalamt) in Germany, the Serbian Criminal Investigations Directorate in Serbia and the Metropolitan Police (New Scotland Yard) of London in the UK.  According to a EUROPOL statement the Europol Analysis Project FURTUM supported the investigation by coordinating information exchanges, holding operational meetings, preparing the action day and providing analytical support in Italy.

Image Credit:  Europol
The network of criminal actors included a structured group of tombaroli, fences and intermediaries involved in moving illicit antiquities from archaeological sites in and around Crotone, where one of the most important and best known sanctuaries of Magna Graecia is located.  Source locations preyed upon by the squad include the public archaeological sites of Apollo Aleo at Cirò Marina, Capo Colonna, Castiglione di Paludi in the Municipality of Paludi, as well as unmapped areas near Cosentino and Cerasello.  The looters also dug on private lands in the province of Crotone and Cosenza.

During the press conference, it was stated that the criminal group associated with this action appeared to be well organized and had an entrepreneurial approach to structuring their criminal association. As the result of surveillance and wiretaps law enforcement officers were able to determine the top management of the organization, who directed and controlled the activity of the lower members of the association.  They also determined who planned the individual shipments, identified the places of interest for plunder, and worked to prevent, or at least minimize the risk of detection by the police.

Image Credit:  Europol
In Italy searches were conducted against a total of 80 individuals.  In italy, two were taken into custody and 23 have others been reportedly placed under house arrest upon the request of the public prosecutor.  The coinvolved overseas have not been named. 

Held in Custody
Giorgio Salvatore Pucci, from Cirò Marina who was already named in a previous investigation. 
Alessandro Giovinazzi, from Scandale

Released under house arrest
Alfiero Angelucci, from Trevi
Antonio Camardo, from Pisticci,
Giuseppe Caputo,from Dugenta
Sebastiano Castagnino, from Petilia Policastro
Enrico Cocchi, from Castano Primo
Francesco Comito, from Rocca di Neto 
Simone Esposito, from Rocca di Neto
Giuseppe Gallo, from Strongoli
Raffaele Gualtieri, from Isola Capo Rizzuto 
Domenico Guareri, from Isola Capo Rizzuto
Vittorio Kuckiewicz, from Fermo
Franco Lanzi, a numismatic expert from Norcia
Leonardo Lecce from Crotone,
Raffaele Malena, from Cirò Marina, (also named in previous antiquities investigation)
Marco Godano Otranto, from Crotone,
Renato Peroni, from Magnago
Santo Perri, from Sersale
Vincenzo Petrocca, from Isola Capo Rizzuto,
Aldo Picozzi, from Castano Primo
Domenico Riolo, from Scandale
Dino Sprovieri from Cirò Marina

4 others unnamed individuals have been arrested are domiciled abroad

Initial reports state that some of the individuals involved in the criminal conspiracy communicated with one another using a codified language and in some cases accessed archaeological finds using a backhoe, drones, and sophisticated metal detectors from Minelab, despite the fact that the use of metal detectors is completely prohibited in Calabria.

Some of the artifacts recovered include terracotta vases and oil lamps, terracotta plates, fibulas and pieces of ancient jewelry, some dating to the IV and III century BCE.

Italy's Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini gave a statement regarding the investigation saying "Thanks to sophisticated investigative techniques and the collaboration of Europol and the competent foreign police forces, in Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Serbia, the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage has completed with a vast operation to counter the illicit trafficking of archaeological finds from Calabria to Northern Italy and abroad has been successful, recovering thousands of goods and seizing materials used for clandestine excavations, an operation that once again demonstrates the excellence of the Carabinieri Command which has been operating since 1969 in defense of the Italian cultural heritage."

Unfortunately this is not the first time Crotone has been the focal point of such a blitz.  From 2014 until January 2017 an investigation coordinated by the Public Prosecutor of Crotone through Procurator dott. Giuseppe Capoccia and the Deputy Dr. Luisiana Di Vittorio, and conducted by the Police of the Cultural Heritage Protection Center of Cosenza followed up on a number of clandestine excavations conducted in archaeological sites in the areas surrounding Crotone area. While that investigation also served to identify many of the actors of a diffuse and well-structured criminal association it seems that one group dismantled simply made room for another.