Three Arrested for Olympia Museum Robbery

Athens.- Three people were arrested on Saturday in the western port city of Patras for the February robbery at the old Archaeological Museum of Ancient Olympia in which some 65 exhibits were stolen, and two more individuals are wanted.

Two hooded thieves broke into the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Olympia on the morning of February 17 and made away with approximately 65 exhibits after attacking the woman guards she was turning off the alarm system to enter the building and take up her shift, holding her at gunpoint as they tied her to a chair and gagged her, then broke the glass of the display cases, grabbed the antiquities and fled.

A police handout picture dated 24 November 2012 shows exhibition pieces from the Museum of Ancient Olympia, which have been recovered after a robbery, in Athens, Greece.

The thieves fled with some 65-68 ancient bronze and clay artifacts, mostly votive offerings and all of great value, and also a gold ring.

The suspects were initially taken in for questioning on Saturday, after a large number of antique artifacts were found in their possession, and after the items were identified as stolen articles from the Museum the three were subsequently arrested.

Police arrested two residents of Patras aged 50 and 36 and a 41-year-old man from Athens, and two more Patras residents aged 58 and 33 are wanted, while police are continuing investigations for the possible involvement of others in the theft.

The arrests arose after police investigations of all antiquity smuggling cases they have solved, in the belief that antiquity smugglers were in contact with individuals wishing to sell ancient artifacts that had been stolen from the museum, sources said.

The same sources said that a police officer, posing as a prospective buyer, succeeded in approaching one of the perpetrators and setting up a meeting with him at a Patras hotel. When the suspect tried to sell the officer the gold ring stolen from the Museum for 300,000 euro, the policeman attempted to arrest him but the suspect pulled out and threatened him with a gun. Other police officers on hand intervened and arrested the suspect, while the two other suspects were arrested in the hotel premises.

During questioning the suspects revealed the spot where they hiding the stole artifacts in a rural area some two kilometers outside the town of Ancient Olympia.

After a count and identification of the artifacts found in the suspects’ possession, archaeologists will ascertain whether any of the stolen objects from the Museum are missing, and in what condition the artifacts are. The artifacts have tentatively been dated to the Geometric and Classical Periods.

Alternate Culture Minister Costas Tzavaras later praised the “discovery and arrest of the perpetrators of the theft at the Museum of Ancient Olympic and the recovery of the stolen items” as “an important success that arose from the harmonious and efficient cooperation among the Ministry’s services and the Greek Police (ELAS)”.