Prosecutors in Guatemala claim to have discovered 1,222 possible pre-Hispanic archaeological artifacts at the home of an American couple accused of smuggling the historical relics.
The artifacts were found during a 12-hour inspection at the house of Stephanie Allison Jolluck and Giorgio Salvidor Rossilli in the tourist town of Antigua, ranging from large stone carvings to small pottery pieces, reports said.
The special prosecutor’s office in the South American country said in a statement that the raid on the American couple’s home “represents a tough blow to a presumed ring dedicated to illegally trafficking cultural goods.”
It said the pieces discovered from their possession include stone items made of jade and basalt, which were handed over to the culture ministry for examination.
Ms. Jolluck, 49, was detained earlier in November after trying to fly out of Guatemala with two stone carvings dating back to the period between 600 and 900 A.D. She was quoted as saying that she bought those items at a market, believing they were souvenirs.
She was later released on bail by a judge on a form of personal recognizance as she was a long-term resident of Guatemala. Ms. Jolluck and her American partner Mr. Rossilli live in the tourist town of Antigua.
In mid-November, she and Rossilli were detained again after they were stopped by the police in the southern town of Antigua in an anti-trafficking operation.
A total of 166 stolen heritage pieces were found in their vehicle, according to officials.
Prosecutor Jorge Alberto de León said the couple told a judge they thought the artifacts were cheap reproductions. “They argued that, because they are foreigners, they cannot tell one piece from another,” Mr. de León said.
“They told the judge that because they were pieces of stone, they had seen sold at the markets, they never imagined that they were ancient archeological pieces.”
More artifacts were found in a search of their home in the city of Antigua, Guatemala, near the capital, the prosecutor’s office said.
Investigators found “722 pieces of various sizes and materials, such as jade and basalt,” as well as 500 stone pieces “of small dimensions,” they added.
Guatemala’s culture ministry said 90 percent of the 166 artifacts, mostly stone carvings, found in the couple’s vehicle were authentic.
Judge Sherly Figueroa released them on bail of about $6,400 for each, but the duo has been barred from leaving the country.
In Guatemala, smuggling relics and archaeological artifacts can land up to five to 10 years in jail if convicted. (PressTV.ir)