Law enforcement officials have announced the arrest of 60 individuals and the recovery of over 11,000 stolen artefacts as part of a major international crackdown on art trafficking across 14 European countries. Known as Pandora VII, the operation was led by Spain’s Guardia Civil, with the support of Europol and INTERPOL.

The operation, which ran between 13 and 24 September 2022, included thousands of checks carried out at various airports, ports, border crossings, auction houses, museums, and private residences. Two cyber patrol weeks in May and October resulted in over 8,000 online checks and the seizure of over 4,000 stolen goods.

Among the recovered artefacts were 77 ancient books seized by Italian authorities from an online marketplace, a Roman marble bust of a woman recovered by the Civil Guard in Spain, 3,073 ancient coins seized by Polish authorities from an online sales platform, and 48 religious sculptures recovered by Portuguese authorities.

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The operation also involved ongoing investigations, with over 130 investigations currently underway. Additional seizures and arrests are anticipated as investigators around the world continue to pursue those who spoil and destroy cultural heritage.

Pandora VII was part of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT) and the seventh iteration of Operation Pandora, which was first launched in 2016. Europol played a key role in the operation, facilitating information exchange and providing analytical and operational support. INTERPOL supported the operation with a dedicated expert to double check searches against its Stolen Works of Art Database and officers on the ground used ID-Art, INTERPOL’s mobile app.

Participating countries included Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.