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French Artifact Raider Busted Trying to Launder Over 14,000 Roman Coins

The bust led investigators to thousands of other artifacts in the suspect’s possession.

GINGELOM, Belgium — A trove of more than 14,000 Roman coins led investigators to a French man’s stash of illegally accumulated ancient artifacts.

Authorities made the discovery earlier this month after the suspect, identified only as Patrice T., reported uncovering the massive treasure in Gingelom, Belgium, about 40 miles east of Brussels, last year.

After investigating, the Flemish Organization for Immovable Heritage determined it was impossible all of the coins could have come from the reported location. Instead, the department noted the coins appear to have been excavated from French soil.

Immovable Heritage Agency found coin depot of more than 14,000 Roman coins. (Agentschap Onroerend Erfgoed/Real Press)

After contacting French counterpart agency Direction Regionale des Affaires Culturelles, authorities further discovered tens of thousands of other illegally obtained artifacts in the suspect’s possession, including bracelets, necklaces, decorative pins, belt buckles and figurines from the Iron Age, Bronze Age and Roman and Merovingian periods.

The suspect now stands accused of pillaging several archeological sites, which is illegal in France because the removal of ancient artifacts can lead to the loss of information critical to retracing their history. Thus, the man is believed to have tried to launder the coins through Belgium, where treasure hunting under strict regulations has been permitted since 2016.

Overall, officials seized more than 27,000 artifacts during a raid of the suspect’s home. Belgium plans to return the coins to France in the spring of 2021, which will allow French researchers the opportunity to analyze the artifacts in effort to reconstruct their history.

It was not immediately clear what specific charges the suspect, who is awaiting trial, faces.

Immovable Heritage Agency found coin depot of more than 14,000 Roman coins. (Agentschap Onroerend Erfgoed/Real Press)
Immovable Heritage Agency found coin depot of more than 14,000 Roman coins. (Agentschap Onroerend Erfgoed/Real Press)

(Edited by Carlin Becker and Fern Siegel)