The Istanbul Police Department’s Anti-Smuggling Crime Branch teams carried out the biggest seizure of historical artifacts in the history of the republic, with raids across 12 Turkish provinces, recovering 14,000 historical pieces and bags full of foreign currency as well as Turkish lira.
The operation was carried out on Oct. 11 in the provinces of Istanbul, Afyonkarahisar, Antalya, Muğla, Kırklareli, Gaziantep, Bartın, Niğde, Nevşehir, Bursa, Aksaray and Konya.
In addition to the historical artifacts, police seized 450,000 euros, $33,300 and 276,000 Turkish lira.
Twenty-seven suspects were taken into custody, eight of whom were referred to the court and arrested. Thirteen were put under judiciary authority and six were released pending trial.
The seized artifacts – from the Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods – included terracotta and bronze lamps, terracotta and bronze sculptures, animal figures, steles, statues of gods including the god of war Ares, and human figures.
Fish fossils dating back 15 million years and stone axes of the Neolithic period were also among the cache.
Turkey has been fighting for the return of stolen pieces at home and abroad.
Thousands of anti-smuggling operations are carried across Turkey every year to halt the illegal sale of historical objects and protect the country’s rich cultural heritage.
The issue is crucial to a country that is home to about 3,000 ancient cities from 42 civilizations, and whose tourism industry relies on its rich historical heritage to attract millions of foreigners each year.