Bulgarian Man Receives Suspended Sentence for Holding ‘Unregistered’ Archaeological Artifacts

Part of the confiscated artifacts. Photo: Interior Ministry

Part of the confiscated artifacts. Photo: Interior Ministry

A man from the northeastern Bulgarian town of Novi Pazar has been given a suspended sentence under the country’s Cultural Heritage Act for holding archaeological artifacts that he had failed to register with a local museum.

59-year-old Nikolay Siderov has been sentenced by the Shumen District Court to a 2-year suspended sentence and a fine of BGN 5,000 (app. EUR 2,500), local news site Top Novini Shumen has reported.

He was found by the local police to have been in possession of a total of 407 archaeological, historical, and cultural artifacts.

These include coins, fibulas, appliqués, parts of rings, and arrow tips, and date back to different time periods. He was also in possession of a metal detector.

The artifacts were discovered by the police in various locations back in March 2012: in Siderov’s home in the town of Novi Pazar, in his mother’s home, in his wife’s flower shop, and in his car, in a plastic bag under the front seat.

The man, who argues that he is a collector, and not a treasure hunter, was sentenced by a local court in 2013 but appealed the verdict which has now been confirmed.

Siderov says that he inherited his collection of about 90 Ancient Greek and Roman fibulas from his grandfather, and that he made an attempt to register it with the local museum as required by the law but his motion was turned down by the museum workers who said he had missed the respective deadline.

He also says he bought the other artifacts from the local market, and that he got his metal detector from the UK shortly before he was arrested, and thus never managed to use it.

The man will likely appeal his sentence before the Varna Appellate Court. All of his archaeological artifacts have been transferred to a local museum.

While treasure hunting and antique trafficking are rampant problems all over Bulgaria, the country’s cultural heritage legislation has often been criticized by collectors who argue that they should not be treated the same way as the treasure hunting looters.

Background Infonotes:

Treasure hunting and illegal trafficking of antiques have been rampant in Bulgaria after the collapse of the communism regime in 1989 (and allegedly before that). Estimates vary but some consider this the second most profitable activity for the Bulgarian mafia after drug trafficking. One recent estimate suggests its annual turnover amounts to BGN 500 million (app. EUR 260 million), and estimates of the number of those involved range from about 5 000 to 200 000 – 300 000, the vast majority of whom are impoverished low-level diggers.