Police seize large cache of Syrian artefacts

Stored illegal artefacts in an apartment

Published on 9 February 2013

Author(s): Jordan Times/Taylor Luck

Type:  News

Police on Saturday seized a hoard of antiquities believed to have been smuggled from Syria, according to the Public Security Department (PSD).

The police received a tip that an Arab national had been storing illegal artefacts in an apartment in the northern city of Ramtha.

“We inspected the apartment early Saturday and found a large amount of artefacts that are illegal in the possession of a private individual,” PSD Spokesperson Lt. Col. Mohammed Khatib told The Jordan Times.

Khatib could neither confirm the origin nor the nature of the artefacts, but said they were sent to archaeological experts to undergo further testing.

A search for the artefacts’ owner is in progress, he said, expecting an arrest to be made by early Sunday.

According to a second security source, the suspect is a Syrian national long suspected of running an antiquities smuggling ring from the border city of Ramtha, 90km north of Amman.

The suspect, who hails from the southern Syrian city of Daraa, is a trafficking “middleman” who has been using his apartment for several months as a “transit point” for the growing number of stolen Syrian artefacts making their way across the Jordanian-Syrian border, according to the source.

“The suspect is well-known dealer who helped move smuggled antiquities from the border region to Amman and the international market,” added the source, who is based near Ramtha and is familiar with the details of the case.

Despite reports of an emerging trade in illicit Syrian artefacts, local authorities have no official statistics on the phenomenon, with the Jordan Customs Department reportedly foiling several small-scale “individual” attempts to smuggle artefacts into the Kingdom.

If confirmed, Saturday’s bust would mark the largest single cache of Syrian artefacts seized in Jordan since the onset of the conflict in March 2011.

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