Barcelona antiques dealer arrested for smuggling

Ancient sculpture recovered from Spanish dealer.

The Egyptian sculpture, valued at €190,000. Credit: PoliciaNacional/X

A Barcelona antique dealer has been arrested, accused of engaging in smuggling, money laundering, and the forgery of documents, following the seizure of an Egyptian sculpture from 1450 BC.

The arrest occurred in Barcelona where the dealer allegedly sold an ancient Egyptian sculpture for €190,000. The piece, a head dating back to around 1450 BC, was seized during a transaction at the annual European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht.

Originating from a Swiss gallery, which had previously acquired it from a German counterpart, the sculpture was handed over to Dutch authorities after suspicions arose about its provenance.

The gallery discovered the item had links to a Spanish dealer known for connections to conflict zones in North Africa and the Middle East.

Trail of deception uncovered

The Spanish dealer attempted to justify the sculpture’s origins with a document that purported to trace several archaeological items to a Spanish collection from the 1970s.

This document was later exposed as a fabrication designed to obscure the artefact‘s true history and integrate it into the legitimate market.

‘The arrested person was perfectly aware of the illicit origin of the Egyptian head seized in the Netherlands,’ confirmed investigators, who proved the documentation to be falsified after thorough checks.

Elaborate schemes lead to legal action

This case opened when Dutch authorities alerted Spain at the end of last year about the illegal sale of culturally significant items within the European market.

The investigation traced the sculpture’s journey from a Bangkok-based international company to the suspect’s establishment in Barcelona in July 2015.

Understanding the high stakes of the legal market, the dealer allegedly crafted a fictitious past for the artifact to veil its illicit origins and command higher prices.

Based on the gathered evidence, he now faces charges that could further unveil a network of historical artifact smuggling.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.