Off-duty Italy art cops find looted statue in Belgian shop

ROME (AP) — Italian police said they have recovered a first century Roman statue that was stolen from an archaeological site in 2011 and found in a Belgian antiques shop by two off-duty Italian art squad police officers.

An Italian businessman who used a Spanish pseudonym has been referred to prosecutors for further investigation into allegations he received and then exported the statue abroad, the Carabinieri art squad said in a statement on Monday.

The ‘Togatus’ statue, featuring a headless Roman wearing a draped toga, has a value of EUR100,000. It was stolen in November 2011 from the Villa Marini Dettina archaeological site on the outskirts of the capital, the statement said.

Two members of the art squad’s archaeological unit were on assignment in Brussels when they took a walk after work in the Sablon neighbourhood that is known for its antiques shops. They spotted a marble statue in a shop that they suspected was from Italy, and confirmed their suspicions when they cross-referenced the work with a database of known stolen antiquities, the statement said.

Italy for decades has worked to recover looted antiquities that have ended up in private collections, famous museums and commercial antique shops around the world.

Carabinieri (Italian paramilitary police) officers of the art squad’s archaeological unit pose with a headless Roman statue wearing a draped toga in Brussels. PHOTO: AP