Peru police recover 64 antiquities in undercover operation

Peruvian Police recovered 64 antiquities yesterday during an undercover operation in Lima’s Barranco district. One of the artifacts was a pre-Inca shawl dating back to the Paracas Culture.

Officials say the 2.5-meter-by-1.5-meter shawl is worth $500,000 on the black market. It was offered to the undercover officer at a bargain price of $150,000. According to Police, the shawl was stolen Oct. 15, 2004, from the Adolfo Bermudez Jenkins Regional Museum in Ica.

Also included among the recovered items was a colonial painting of Saint Rose of Lima, 30 books from the 17th century, pottery from the Nazca culture and numerous sculptures. Police Officer Walter Rivera told daily La República the total value of the collection is over a million dollars. The two men arrested in the operation reportedly face up to four years in prison if convicted. But in fact, that amounts to hardly a slap on the wrist. Under Peru’s penal code, any sentence of four years or less is automatically suspended.

Looting of archaeological sites and thefts from museums and religious centers is common in Peru. According to the National Culture Institute, INC, Peru recovered more than 436 artifacts in 2006 and 2007. Its largest recovery since the 1970s was in September 2007 when the United States Department of Homeland Security returned hundreds of pre-Columbian artifacts recovered in Miami from 66-year-old Ugo Bagnato.

In an attempt to prevent illegal art trafficking and irreparable losses to Peru’s rich cultural heritage, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) presented The Red List of Peruvian Antiquities in Danger in November 2007. Included in the list are pre-Columbian fabrics, metals objects and ceramics as well as colonial and early Republican paintings, sculptures and documents.

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