By John Ensor •
Updated: 24 Oct 2023 • 10:52
10 of the ancient gold pieces recovered by police.
In a ground-breaking collaboration, officials from the National Police and the Ukrainian Security Service have retrieved a total of 11 gold artefacts in Madrid, estimated to be worth upwards of €60 million.
A report from Spain’s National Police has shared details of how the precious items, originally from Ukraine’s historical heritage, were set to be sold on Madrid’s black market.
In Madrid, the National Police, in a joint operation with the Ukrainian Security Service, have seized 11 pieces of exquisitely crafted pieces of gold jewellery valued at more than €60 million. Officers have arrested five people, three of Spanish nationality and two from Ukraine.
The investigation was carried out with the collaboration of the Interior Attache’s Office in Bulgaria, Ukraine, Albania, North Macedonia and Cyprus, as well as the International Cooperation Division.
Initial inquiries began when officers learned that a Ukrainian resident in Madrid was selling historically significant gold jewellery from Ukraine. Such items aren’t permitted for sale through conventional lawful channels like auction houses.
Ingeniously, to bypass this, the jewellery was integrated into the assets of newly established businesses, specifically designed to give them an appearance of legality, thus making it easier for a group of investors to trade them.
To disguise the items’ true origin, accompanying paperwork in Ukrainian, English, and Spanish claimed they belonged to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. At the same time, ownership and managerial rights were transferred to the main suspect, an Orthodox priest based in Madrid.
In addition, upon the alleged owners’ request, Spanish cultural property specialists drafted reports of the jewellery, valuing them at more than €60 million.
The first of the valuable pieces was seized in 2021 when a unique gold belt adorned with ram heads was found in a Madrid vault, privately sold by the chief suspect to a local entrepreneur. This discovery, followed by intensive police operations, confirmed that the individuals under investigation had other similar artefacts.
The alliance with the Ukrainian Security Service linked the belt and other items to an exhibit in a Kiev museum between 2009 and 2013. Following the exhibition, the jewels landed in the Orthodox priest’s hands.
Together with an accomplice and third-party help, they falsified documents to justify the artefacts’ origin and verify their ownership. The investigation revealed that these treasures were illegally transported out of Ukraine before May 2016.
Officers have confirmed the arrest of five people, for the alleged money laundering crime, and have recently announced the seizure of a further ten pieces of gold with similarities to the belt recovered in 2021.
All the confiscated artefacts, traced back to the Greco-Scythian culture spanning the 8th to 4th centuries BC, are undergoing examination at the National Archaeological Museum and Spain’s Institute of Cultural Heritage. Meanwhile further investigations are continuing.
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
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