The Greek Culture Minister has received seven icons from the Dutch authorities. The icons were found in Amsterdam and were seized by the police last April, as they had been stolen from a church in the Greek city of Koukouli.
They were discovered on the website of a Dutch seller and allegedly had a value of between 50,000 and 100,000 euros. Dutch law gives a member state of the European Union the possibility of requesting the return of cultural objects which are of importance to that state, if they were moved illegally to another European state.
This was the case with the Greek icons. The police seized the icons in anticipation of an official request for their return from Greece. They did this to prevent the icons disappearing again before the Greek authorities could submit a claim asking for their return. Dutch Law, based on a European Directive of 1993 and an international treaty of 1970, allows the possibility of such a claim.
An interesting aspect of this case is that the objects were offered for sale on the open market so soon after they had been stolen. Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that the Dutch seller was unaware that the icons had been stolen.
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