Police announced Friday that they had last week raided an antiques store in the Mamilla neighborhood and discovered dozens of ancient coins, bronze sculptures, pottery, arrowheads, and other items for sale – illegally. The raid occurred after police conducted a several months long undercover investigation in which evidence was gathered on the source of the items – which were illegally taken from protected antiquities sites around Israel.
Beginning last March, stores that sell antiquities are required to list with the Antiquities Authorities all of the items that they sell that fall under the rubric of protected antiquities. Generally it is illegal to sell such items in Israel, unless the merchant has a license to do so, as most antiquities dealers do. Under the new program, stores are required to register the items they have for sale and report on when they are sold and for how much.
The program is designed to prevent the “laundering” of illegally-acquired antiquities which are taken from archaeological sites and sold by the dealers using their licenses. Fake documentation attests to the “legal” acquisition of these items. With the computerized system, the Authority can check immediately what items are available and where they came from. The store in question was selling items that were not listed in the database, indicating that they were most likely acquired illegally, Authority officials said.
The officials said that they will be filing indictments against the Mamilla store, and against other dealers who are involved in the illicit sales of antiquities against whom investigations are also ongoing.