British tomb raider's illegally looted treasures returned to Italy after ... trends now
Hundreds of artefacts illegally looted for a British tomb raider and worth up to £10.3 million have been returned to Italy after a 20-year legal battle.
The oldest of the 821 objects date back to the eighth century BC and include an Etruscan three-legged bronze table, Roman marble busts, and wall paintings believed to be from the area of Mount Vesuvius.
Disgraced antiquities dealer Robin Symes acquired the objects, which are mainly of Italian and Greek origin, after they were excavated illegally before many were exported and sold around the world.
They were found stored in two warehouses in London nearly 20 years ago in the possession of Symes' company, Robin Symes Ltd, which has since gone into administration allowing a deal to be struck with liquidators.
The Italian Culture minister has now hailed their repatriation a success, and slammed the 'traffickers with no scruples' who he said had plundered his country's cultural heritage.
Robin Symes, 84, is a disgraced British art dealer whose collection consisted of looted artefacts from Italy and Greece
An undated fragment of a wall painting depicting deities and feminine figures
A rare and well-preserved tripod table in foil bronze, Etruscan production of the seventh century BC
A polychrome mosaic which has now been returned to Italy it was excavated illegally
Dating from the eighth-century BC to the medieval era, the precious objects will now be displayed in Rome at the Castel Sant'Angelo, a fortress and mausoleum for Roman emperor Hadrian overlooking the river Tiber.
Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano, who attended the exhibition, said those behind the looting had operated in a 'in a grey zone between legality and illegality' for decades, the Telegraph reports.
The items were stolen from holy sites, including tombs, where Romans would go to pray to their various gods.
Symes, 84, was Britain's top art dealer for decades before details of his shady dealings emerged after a series of dramatic events saw his business unravel.
His parnter of 30 years, Christo Michaelides, heir to a Greek shipping fortune and a partner in Symes's £125 million antiquities business, died after falling down the stairs while the couple were on holiday in Umbria in 1999.
After Michaelides's death, his family claimed they were entitled to half of the antiquities business — a share worth £43 million.