Among the antiquities found in the professor's possession were silver coins from the Second Temple period and 1,500-year-old clay candles. If convicted the professor could face a three year prison sentence.
Found among tour guide's belongings (Photo: Eilat Customs)
The joint operation began two weeks ago when the Antiquities Authority theft prevention unit inspectors succeeded in locating an American tour guide that was selling antiques to tour groups visiting Israel from the US.
The inspectors were present at a sale being held at a Jerusalem hotel and arrested the tour guide. He was held for questioning and when they searched his room they found hundreds of artifacts which according to suspicions, were dug up and stolen from various archeological sites throughout the country by thieves.
Further investigations revealed that the tour guide was a history professor in the US, an expert on Egyptian culture and history. At the end of the interrogation the professor was released but investigators who were keeping watch found that he was continuing to sell artifacts to tourists.
The inspectors also kept watch on the tourists following them to the Taba crossing in Eilat delaying the tourists at the crossing alerting them to the fact they were suspected for involvement in illegal trade and export.
Ceramic candles and glass tools (Photo: Eilat Customs)
Among the artifacts found in the tourists suitcases were ancient silver and bronze coins from the Second temple period (2,000 years old), ceramic candles from the Roman and Byzantine period and various glass and ceramic tools. The items were authenticated and were most likely stolen from tombs and archeological sites in Israel. The total sum paid by the tourists for the stolen items came to $20,000.
Meanwhile, investigators continued following the professor who was making his way to Ben Gurion Airport to leave Israel in order to cash the checks he received. He was detained before boarding his flight, and when his bags were opened a treasure trove of ancient coins was revealed. Papers documenting his deals were also found.
The professor admitted to the offenses and after posting bail was allowed to leave the country.
The head of the theft prevention unit at the Antiquities Authority Amir Ganor said at the conclusion of the operation that "those who purchase artifacts from unauthorized sources at exorbitant prices are endangering themselves, their money and encouraging artifact theft and robbing the country of its history.
Avital Lahav contributed to this report
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