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Greek Antiquities Ring Broken Up February 1, 2000
by Nikos Axarlis

On January 28 Greek police announced the arrest of two people in connection with the theft of 271 artifacts and 1 million drachmae (about $3,000 dollars) in cash from the Corinth Archaeological Museum on the night of April 12, 1990. They are Anastasios Karahalios (43) and Ioannis Loris (36), both Geek nationals with previous criminal records involving robberies and drugs. Two others, Anastasios' 76-year-old father and 35-year-old brother, both named Tryfonas, are wanted in connection with the case. They are believed to be in Venezuela and Peru. Police found a number of antiquities (not from the Corinth museum), guns, and drugs in Anastasios' home.

The four names were mentioned a few years ago in court at the trial of Michalis Nistikakis, the former deputy chief of the Greek police and a personal friend of Konstantinos Mitsotakis, Greece's prime minister from 1990 to 1993. According to Nistikakis, who was acquitted of illegal trading in antiquities, he was in secret contact with the Karahalios gang in order to retrieve the antiquities stolen from the Corinth museum. Mitsotakis, born in Crete, kept a huge collection of mainly Minoan artifacts that, in his own words, he acquired through buying from "peasants" and in the antiquities market. The Mitsotakis collection has now been donated to the Greek state.

Christos Mavrikis, who was imprisoned for carrying out illegal wire tappings on behalf of Mitsotakis, claims that in November 1997 he was contacted by the Karahalios gang after which he informed the ministry of culture, police, and private detective Yiorgos Tsoukalis. According to police, Mavrikis and Tsoukalis helped Greek police, a member of the Greek CIA, and the FBI in Miami set up the operation that led to the recovery of the stolen antiquities.

Six of the stolen artifacts from the Corinth museum had found their way to the auction house Christies, which sold five of them to two collectors who handed them over to the FBI. The sixth was recovered by the FBI.

© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America