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Löger: "Customs controls protect and safeguard cultural heritage" Ancient marble head and two statuettes from the Roman Empire handed over to Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum

Vienna (OTS) - In February last year, a mobile customs unit from the Linz Wels Customs Office succeeded in making an extraordinary seizure. In a passenger car travelling in the direction of Germany, customs officers found two statuettes wrapped in towels, as well as a marble head in a plastic bag. The items were confiscated by the Customs Office on the grounds of suspected smuggling of cultural treasures. Analysis by experts from the Kunsthistorisches Museum revealed that they were indeed well-preserved ancient originals from the period of the Roman Empire.

Attempting to defend himself, the driver informed the officers that he had acquired the items at the Naschmarkt in Vienna, an antiques and flea market, without obtaining a receipt, for a price of EUR 700. However, investigations by the Customs Office were able to refute the statements by the driver, which merely served as cover. The perpetrator was convicted of smuggling and, in addition to a monetary fine, also had to pay the costs of the proceedings. The ancient sculptures were confiscated and, in coordination with the Austrian Federal Monuments Office, were handed over to the Kunsthistorisches Museum for professional safekeeping.

"Customs controls are essential for the preservation and securing of cultural heritage," stressed Austrian Finance Minister Hartwig Löger, adding, "I am especially pleased that today, I am able to hand over the items seized to the Antiquities Collection at the Kunsthistorisches Museum. As a result, these cultural assets now have a secure home and will in future be accessible to interested members of the public."

"The Kunsthistorisches Museum collaborates in the fight against international trade in cultural assets in a long-standing partnership with the authorities. In particular, our extensive professional expertise in confiscated objects can make a decisive contribution to clarifying whether the items in question are original antiquities, and from what region a cultural asset could originate. Just last year, two ancient marble heads seized by customs were handed over to the Museum. A presentation of the sculptures is currently in preparation, and here, we will place a significant focus on the topic of protecting cultural treasures," explained Director-General Sabine Haag.

Handover of the sculptures took place today, Thursday, in the presence of Austrian Finance Minister Hartwig Löger and Sabine Haag, Director-General of the Kunsthistorisches Museum and associated institutions.

   Images in relation to this transmission may be found here Photo Album