The latest arrests of treasure hunters in Bulgaria have occurred on the same day in different parts of the country as a result of random checks. Map: Google Maps
A total of 5 treasure hunters have been arrested in two different regions of Bulgaria during random police checks.
Treasure hunting targetting archaeological sites is a very rampant crime all across Bulgaria, with tens or even hundreds of thousands of people destroying country’s enormous archaeological, cultural and historical heritage on a daily basis.
Learn more about treasure hunting crimes in Bulgaria in the Background Infonotes below!
In one of the instances, 3 treasure hunters have been arrested with “homemade" metal detectors in an area called Kabara near the town of Rakita, Pleven District, in Northwest Bulgaria, the District Police Directorate has announced.
The arrests were made when a local police patrol inspected a park car, finding two ceramic artifacts and a coin left on its front seat.
The car owner, a 50-year-old local man, was arrested, and so were his companions, a 51-year-old woman from Varna and a 39-year-old woman from Pleven, all of whom were reported to have been carrying “homemade" metal detectors.
The arrests of the two females alleged to be treasure hunters are notable because treasure hunting looting in Bulgaria is committed overwhelmingly by men.
In another fresh case, two treasure hunters have been arrested in Haskovo District in Southern Bulgaria, after traffic police pulled over their car for a random inspection between the towns of Yerusalimovo and Georgi Dobrevo.
The two detainees are a 45-year-old man and a 36-old-year old who was the driver. Inside the vehicle, the police discovered 2 metal detectors, 2 shovels, and four ancient coins.
Both cases of fresh arrests of low-level treasure hunters remain under investigation.
Treasure hunting and antiques trafficking out of Bulgaria is a massive criminal industry, with an estimated annual turnover of up to EUR 1 billion.
Unfortunately, public tolerance for the treasure hunting crimes in Bulgaria remains rather high, law enforcement seems to be failing to crack down on them to a sufficient degree, and it is usually just lowest-level diggers who get caught, and even those, more often than not, get away with suspended sentences – as in a very recent case in Southwest Bulgaria.
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 which Ivan Dikov served as a fixer). 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.