Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Whole Villages in Bulgaria Turn To Tomb Raiding

This is really heartbreaking. Perhaps Bulgaria should adopt England's approach to rewarding amateur artifact hunters with a share of the value of their finds.

Sofia News Agency, "Tens of thousands of tomb raiders are systematically stripping Bulgaria. In some parts of the country, whole villages have taken up tomb-raiding and many of the digs are organised by the local mafia.

Volodia Velkov, the head of the police unit that combats organised crime, said tomb-raiding was now generating about £4 billion a year for the crime syndicates.

Mr Velkov and a team of 30 officers are trying to track looted antiquities and stop them leaving the country.

"Since last October, when we started the new department, we have seized 16,000 artefacts," he said.

"More than 30,000 people are involved in tomb-raiding. The business is very well-organized and the expeditions are financed by rich Bulgarians living in the US, Britain and Germany."

Last Friday, a 43-year-old man was caught trying to smuggle more than 100 items into Germany in special compartments within the floor of a lorry. Police found antiquities dating back to 300BC, worth £345,000.

"The main route is through Germany, where there are huge warehouses full of our antiquities," said Mr Velkov.