THE POLICIA NACIONAL have arrested five people in Madrid and recovered 11 gold items of jewellery valued at over €60 million taken from a Ukraine museum over seven years ago.
The stolen jewellery belonged to an exhibition in Kyiv between 2009 and 2013 and the items were smuggled out of Ukraine before May 2016.
Police in Spain worked with their Ukrainian counterparts to locate the criminal gang that was illegally trafficking cultural property.
After the exhibition finished, the pieces ended up in the possession of an Orthodox priest who, in collusion with a second Ukrainian and third parties, falsified documents proving their ownership.
The Policia Nacional got involved after discovering that gold jewellery of great historical and monetary value from Ukraine was being marketed by a Ukrainian citizen living in Madrid.
Not being able to sell the pieces through the usual channels such as an auction- given their illegal origin- the jewels were incorporated into the capital of different commercial companies specially created for the criminal ruse to try to sell them.
The gold pieces were accompanied by documents in Ukrainian, English and Spanish to try to prove that they belonged to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which in turn had transferred them to the Orthodox priest- the main suspect.
The first item was retrieved in 2021- a gold belt with rams’ heads that was deposited in a safe deposit box in Madrid, which the priest had sold to a Madrid businessman.
Officers then discovered that other jewels were being marketed in Spain and embarked on a long process to track them down.
Five people have been subsequently arrested and the items dating back to the Greco-Scythian period of the 8th and 4th centuries B.C., are being studied at the National Archaeological Museum and the Institute of Cultural Heritage of Spain.
The police investigation remains open.