The headless marble statue of a “Togatus,” from the 1st century BC, was stolen by unknown robbers about 10 years ago from Roman archeological site Villa Marini Dettina Park, according to Italy’s Heritage Tutelage Carabinieri Unit.
Two off-duty police officers spotted the statue in an antique shop in Brussels’ Sablon neighborhood while carrying out a separate investigation in Belgium, and, on their return to Italy opened an investigation into the artifact after becoming suspicious about its origins. The statue, police say, appeared damaged, most likely from tools used in digging.
Italian police opened an investigation into the artifact after becoming suspicious about its origins. Credit: Italian Culture Ministry
The artefact has now been returned to Italy. Credit: Italian Culture Ministry
The officers cross-referenced photographs they had taken in Belgium with a database detailing stolen artifacts and discovered its true origin.
The statue, worth around 100,000 euros ($119,668), was confiscated and returned to Italy in February, authorities said.
An investigation done with the cooperation of Belgian authorities revealed the illegal trafficking of cultural objects led by an Italian businessman who used a Spanish pseudonym and has been referred to Rome’s Prosecutor office for receiving the stolen statue and exporting it, authorities said.