Greece on Saturday said it had recovered dozens of archaeological artefacts stolen in February from a museum in Olympia after arresting three men in connection to the case.
“The discovery and arrest of the perpetrators of the robbery and the recovery of the stolen items are a great success,” deputy education minister responsible for culture Costas Tzavaras said in a statement.
A pair of armed robbers in February made off with nearly 80 artefacts from a museum dedicated to the ancient Olympic Games, including a bronze statuette of a victorious athlete, a 2,400-year-old oil jar, clay lamps, bronze tripods and miniature chariot wheels, as well as dozens of idols of charioteers, horses and bulls.
A ministry source told AFP: “Archaeologists are currently evaluating but we understand that all of the artefacts have been recovered.”
Citizen’s Protection Minister Nikos Dendias is expected to make a full announcement on the case later in the day.
Greek police had earlier said that one of the suspects had been arrested at a hotel in the city of Patras on Friday after trying to sell a 3,300-year-old gold ring to an undercover officer posing as a potential buyer.
The man, who had asked 300,000 euros ($387,000) for the Bronze Age ring, later cracked under questioning and named his accomplices, a local police source said.
Officers were then dispatched to a village near Olympia to look for other items stolen from the museum.
Private Skai Radio reported that the suspects are Greek.
Greece, rich in archaeological heritage, has been targeted by antiquity smugglers for decades.
But the financial crisis rocking the country has brought hundreds of staff layoffs among archaeologists and guards, leaving museums vulnerable to theft.
The Olympia robbery badly embarrassed authorities at the time. The then culture minister offered to resign but was allowed to keep his post.
It came a month after thieves broke into the Athens National Gallery and stole a painting personally gifted to Greece by Spanish-born master Pablo Picasso, in addition to two other artworks.
No arrests have been made in that case.