statue of Apollo returned to Greece
June 16, 2007 8:53 AM
ATHENS, Greece-Greek authorities on Wednesday took delivery of a 1,900
year-old statue, stolen 16 years ago and recently discovered in the collection
of an antiquities dealer in Switzerland.
Recovery of the headless marble sculpture is part of an aggressive Greek
campaign to repatriate illegally exported antiquities and seek the return
of the Parthenon sculptures, also called the Elgin Marbles, from the British
Museum in London.
Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said the statue returned Thursday
had been stolen in 1991 from the town of Gortyn on the island of Crete.
It was traced in March this year in the northern Swiss city of Basel,
according to Switzerland's office for culture and Greece's Culture Ministry.
The two ministries signed a heritage-protection agreement on May 15.
Switzerland has intensified measures to combat the illegal transfer
of cultural goods, and also signed recent agreements with Italy and Peru.
"Today's event is a result of international cooperation to protect our
cultural heritage. More results will be announced soon," Voulgarakis said
after the statue was delivered to the National Archaeological Museum in
He said the statue will be returned to Crete at a later date.
The statue, a 1.3 meter (4.3-foot) torso of a young man, had been registered
as stolen on an international police database. Its location was reported
to Interpol in March by an unknown individual, Yves Fischer of Switzerland's
office for culture told The Associated Press.
Voulgarakis said the Swiss-based antiquities dealer was persuaded by
authorities to surrender the statue and voluntarily drop all claims to
Voulgarakis formerly headed a ministry in charge of law enforcement
and has stepped up efforts against the rogue antiquities trade since becoming
culture minister last year.
Recently returned antiquities include sculptures from the J. Paul Getty
Museum in Los Angeles.
Voulgarakis' campaign coincides with the construction of a museum at
the foot of the ancient Acropolis which is due open in early 2008.
The site will be purpose built to house the Elgin marbles, if returned.
"The new museum will soon be a reality," Voulgarakis said. "We are striving
for the marbles to be reunited. It would be a shame for such a museum at
such a special site to remain half-empty."