Olympia museum robbery: three local, Greek suspects arrested in police sting

Three local, Greek suspects have been arrested for the robbery of the Museum of the History of the Olympic Games on the 17th of February 2012. (See here for an outline of events. Hat tip to nick_arch, through whom I first heard of the arrests (1).)


On-the-record, a police spokeswoman stated that ‘[t]hree people were arrested after trying to sell one of the items stolen in the robbery’; off-the-record, Patras police added that, at the Palace Hotel on Friday, one of them had asked an undercover police officer for €1,500,000, then been bargained down to €300,000 (or €400,000) for the 3,300-year-old, Mycenaean bull-leaping gold ring.

(They ‘had costed/valued the assemblage of objects at the price of 4m euros [είχαν κοστολογήσει το σύνολο των αντικειμένων στην τιμή των 4 εκατ. ευρώ]’.)

On the basis of a “local police source”, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that the seller ‘cracked under questioning and named his accomplices’; rather less excitedly, Ethnos reported that ‘they were waiting in the hotel’s reception [περίμεναν στη ρεσεψιόν του ξενοδοχείου]’.

According to Skai journalist Ilias Kanistras, ‘the three arrested are Greek [οι τρεις συλληφθέντες είναι Έλληνες]’; they had a number of ancient artefacts, which have been identified as Olympic Museum pieces. (All of the others laid buried, undamaged, in a bag in a hill in the area of Koskinas, 2km from ancient Olympia.)

According to Kathimerini, the suspects are a 50-year-old contractor from Patra, a 36-year-old unemployed man from Patra and a 41-year-old unemployed man from Patra but living in Athens (via Stefano Costa (@stekosteko)). According to Ethnos, he ‘declared [himself] unemployed and lived in Athens selling little things [δήλωνε άνεργος και ζούσε στην Αθήνα πουλώντας μικροαντικείμενα]’.

The mastermind

To Vima’s Vasilis Lampropoulos detailed how the Athenian resident, ‘the “mastermind” [ο “εγκέφαλος“]’, sold lighters on a bench in Monastiraki and ‘often travelled to Patra [and] tried to sell [the] gold ring for 1.5m euros [μετέβαινε συχνά στην Πάτρα επιχείρησε να πουλήσει ενα χρυσό δακτυλίδι από τα κλοπιμαία εναντι 1,5 εκατ. ευρω]’.

So, illicit antiquities researcher Christos Tsirogiannis was right to suspect that they were ‘uneducated people with no money‘, who didn’t know that it would be difficult to sell the objects on the black market.

Five suspects

According to the Athenian-Macedonian News Agency, police are ‘searching for two more people…, who are involved in the case…. a 58-year-old and a 33-year-old, [also] residents of Patra [αναζητά ακόμα δύο άτομα…, τα οποία εμπλέκονται στην υπόθεση της μεγάλης κλοπής…. έναν 58χρονο και ένα 33χρονο, κάτοικοι Πατρών]’.

Yet more questions

  1. Whatever happened to the Albanian connection? That connection was made by both the museum guard, based upon her personal experience, and the Greek police, based upon their phone-tapping.
  2. Are these arrests the results of that phone-tapping?
    1. If so, why was one of the phone-tapped suspects publicly-identified as Albanian?
    2. If not, since there were there claims of conclusive evidence, was it an incompetent operation or a disingenuous distraction from the case?
  3. Whatever happened to the Swiss connection, which supposedly demonstrated that it was a professional, international heist?
  4. Whatever happened to the London connection, which similarly suggested that it was a professional, international heist?
    1. Was Interpol dragged into a hunch-led fishing expedition or used in a disingenuous distraction from the case?


1: nick_arch posted that:

3 people were arrested yesterday in Heleia and Athens, having in their po[s]session artifacts stolen from the Olympia Museum, last February.
The three arrested are between 35 and 45 years old and they got arrested while negotiating the sell off of some of the artifacts.

More artifacts were found later, hidden in Heleia area (that’s where the museum is).

Research continues to find the rest of the artifacts and to connect the three arrested with those that stole the artifacts.

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