On the back of ‘Operation Aureus’, the Spanish civil guard warns that jihadism has entered the trafficking of stolen cultural property.
The director of the Civil Guard, Arsenio Fernandez de Mesa, said Wednesday that terrorism jihad might be “nourished and seek economic backgrounds” through smuggling of cultural items of high value. Fernandez de Mesa was speaking during the presentation to the media of the 36 archaeological objects of Egyptian origin that agents of the Heritage Group of the Central Operational Unit of the Civil Guard has seized at the port of Valencia, in the context of Operation hieratic. The operation was carried out in coordination between the Civil Guard, the Tax Office and the Ministry of Culture as part of a wider operation called AUREUS and directed by Europol and developed in 16 countries, 11 of them European. Five people have been arrested in Spain (four Egyptians and a Spanish antiquities dealer) and two in Egypt, a country where the investigation remains open. They are accused of alleged smuggling of cultural goods, laundering capital and belonging to an international criminal group, so that the maximum penalty facing them would be fifteen years imprisonment.
Arsenio Fernández highlighted the work of the 3700 agents of the Heritage Group of the Central Operational Unit of the Civil Guard from the beginning of the operation on June 2nd, when they detected suspicious containers at the port of Valencia, until it ended on November 19 with the arrests. The material recovered, which it is believed may have been looted from the Egyptian archaeological sites of Saqqara and Mit Rahina, came hidden in decorative pots of little value.