Europol's Operation Pandora recovers over 11,000 stolen artefacts and leads to 60 arrests

Religious objects recovered as part of Operation Pandora
Religious objects recovered as part of Operation Pandora Copyright Europol
By Jonny Walfisz
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An art trafficking sting has led to 60 arrests and over 11,000 art objects recovered in a massive victory for European authorities cracking down on art theft.


Every year, Europol, the law enforcement agency of the EU, conducts Operation Pandora, a sting operation run since 2016 that targets looted or stolen cultural goods.

For Pandora VII, Europol worked with INTERPOL and Spain’s Guardia Civil to carry out thousands of checks at various airports, ports and border crossing points, as well as in auction houses, museums and private houses- all on top of cyber patrols.

The operation has once again been a massive success.

11,049 stolen artefacts across 14 European countries have been recovered, with law enforcement arresting 60 people. There are still 130 investigations ongoing which could bring even more stolen artworks back into the right hands.

The objects the police forces recovered includes treasured items such as 77 ancient books in Italy which the Italian Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage seized from an online marketplace.

Roman marble bust, believed to be of Salonia Matidia, and ancient coins recoveredEuropol

There was a Roman marble bust, believed to be of Salonia Matidia, the niece of the emperor Traian, that was recovered in Spain. The Polish police seized 3,073 ancient coins; Portugal recovered 48 religious sculptures and other religious artefacts; and 13 Russian archaeological artefacts were seized at a post office in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It’s an impressive total and can be added to the already sizable number of artefacts Operation Pandora has secured. Last year’s Pandora VI operation brought the total to 147,050 cultural artefacts recovered and 407 arrests.

With the new items recovered, the overall total for all Pandora operations is over 158,100.

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