Madrid Police Seize Unique Roman Coin Haul From Smugglers

The Spanish National Police have arrested four people on historical artifact smuggling charges and seized an Imperial Roman treasure trove of 90 gold coins dating dating back nearly 2,000 years.

The pure gold coins were minted from 64 AD to 231 AD covering the reigns of Nero, Hadrian and Marco Aurelio, among many other Roman Emperors of the 170 year period. 

The Spanish authorities opened an investigation after being tipped off to their pending sale at a Madrid auction house and that two individuals from Cáceres who had no known association with the world of numismatics, had deposited the coins there for sale.
The police investigation led them to discover that the individuals were part of a local metal detector group.

Before the police could finish the investigation eleven of the coins had already been auctioned and smuggled to collectors in Bugaria, Germany and Portugal.

The export of items deemed to be of historical value and importance, is a complex procedure requiring a final export licence by the Ministry of Culture.

The authorities were later able to recover ten of the eleven by working with their counterparts in those countries, while the 11th, which had been re-sold in Portugal, is the subject of a European Investigation Order.

According to numismatics experts, the coins have an estimated value of €237,000, although their sale as a complete set could be double that amount.

Once the the authorities were able to recover the coins, their efforts were then focused on determining the location of the original find which was tracked to an archaeological site in the autonomous region of Extremadura. The region has a large number of historically important sites dating back to the Roman Empire, including the city of Mérida, which was founded by the Emperor Augustus in 25 AD and became one of the most important cities of Roman Hispania.

Earlier this month the police raided the homes of the two individuals in Cáceres, leading to their arrest and the seizure of two metal detectors along with other coins and antique objects as well as documentation.

The two owners of the Madrid auction house were arrested shortly after.

The four suspects are in police custody as the investigation continues.


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