Police Arrest 3 Men for Illegal Possession of Archaeological Artifacts in Bulgaria’s Nova Zagora

One of the archaeological artifacts seized from the arrested men. Photo: Interior Ministry Press Center

One of the archaeological artifacts seized from the arrested men. Photo: Interior Ministry Press Center

Three men with criminal records have been arrested for the illegal possession of archaeological artifacts, as well as drugs and firearms, in the southern Bulgarian town of Nova Zagora.

The police operation leading to their arrests has been observed by the District Prosecutor’s Office in the city of Sliven, the press service of the Bulgarian Interior Ministry has announced.

The police have raided homes used by the three suspects, and have confiscated over 2 kg of drugs, a gun, and a large number of ancient and medieval artifacts and coins.

The seized archaeological artifacts include tools, ceramic and glass vessels, jewels, and armaments.

All three detainees have criminal records, and one of them has served a sentence; two of them are aged 60 and the third is 35.

The arrested men are to face charges for illegal possession of archaeological artifacts, among other things.

Other archaeological artifacts seized from the detainees. Photo: Interior Ministry Press Center

Other archaeological artifacts seized from the detainees. Photo: Interior Ministry Press Center

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.

An estimate made in November 2014 by the Forum Association, a NGO, 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.

According to an estimate by Assoc. Prof. Konstantin Dochev, head of the Veliko Tarnovo Office of the Sofia-based National Institute and Museum of Archaeology, up to USD 1 billion worth of archaeological artifacts might be smuggled out of Bulgaria annually.

According to the estimate of another archaeologist from the Institute, Assoc. Prof. Sergey Torbatov, there might be as many as 500,000 people dealing with treasure hunting in Bulgaria.

One of the most compelling reports in international media on Bulgaria’s treasure hunting plight is the 2009 documentary of Dateline on Australia’s SBS TV entitled “Plundering the Past” (in whose making a member of the ArchaeologyinBulgaria.com participated). Focusing on the fate of the Ancient Roman colony Ratiaria in Northwest Bulgaria, the film makes it clear that treasure hunting destruction happens all over the country on a daily basis.