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News 14 Nov 13

Gold Treasures Presumed Stolen in Macedonia

At least 80 valuable archaeological artifacts, mostly gold earrings and other items of jewelry, have disappeared from the depot of the Museum of Macedonia in Skopje.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

A police investigation has revealed that at least 80 valuable items stored in the museum depot in Skopje have gone missing and are now presumed stolen, an unnamed police source told Balkan Insight.

Many of the valuables were discovered in recent archaeological digs.

According to pictures of the missing artifacts provided by police, many are golden earrings dating back from the Hellenic era. Most were discovered in 2009 and 2010.

No arrests have been made nor have any charges have been pressed.

“We are investigating all possibilities, including the option that an organized group of artifact smugglers is responsible for this,” the police source told Balkan Insight.

Police launched a major investigation last week when two curators reported valuables missing from the depots as they were preparing to move the collection to a new building.

Several other curators employed at the museum then also reported missing items as well.

There is no clue as to whether the possible theft happened recently, and all at the same time, or whether one artifact was taken at a time.

The museum management said the building had adequate security and video monitoring systems.

But unnamed sources from the museum told Plus Info that the entrance to the depot where the artifacts were stored was not under video surveillance.

The scandal about the missing artifacts erupts against a background of an ongoing court case against Macedonia's former chief excavator, Pasko Kuzman, who was arrested in July for misuse of office.

Media reports linked the arrest of the head of the Cultural Heritage Protection Office to the ongoing investigation into the smuggling of valuable icons and archaeological artefacts.

Several archaeologists, employees of the culture ministry and illegal excavators, have been charged with involvement in the case.

The acrchaeologists are accused of helping illegal excavators to determine the price of their artefacts and find buyers abroad.

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