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Greek police crack Olympia robbery, recover artefacts after three Greek men offer them
An array of ancient artifacts are displayed by police after they were recovered. Greek police say they have arrested three people in connection with an armed robbery that targeted the Archaeological Museum of Olympia, the birthplace of the ancient Olympics. The three men were arrested Friday in the western Greek city of Patras, close to Ancient Olympia, after they tried to sell the most ancient of the antiquities to an undercover policeman. AP Photo / Greek Police.
PATRAS (AFP).- Greece officials announced on Saturday they had solved an embarrassing museum robbery in Olympia in February after a police sting operation netted three suspects and recovered dozens of archaeological artefacts.

Earlier Saturday, police said they had arrested three Greek men aged between 36 and 50, and were seeking another two suspects.

The three were arrested at a hotel in the city of Patras late on Friday after one of them tried to sell the Bronze Age gold ring for 300,000 euros ($387,000) to an undercover officer posing as a potential buyer.

The original asking price had been 1.5 million euros, the police said.

Officers were then dispatched to a village near Olympia where they found the remaining artefacts buried inside a sack in a field.

"The discovery and arrest of the perpetrators of the robbery and the recovery of the stolen items are a great success," deputy education minister responsible for culture Costas Tzavaras said in a statement.

Back in February, a pair of armed robbers made off with nearly 80 artefacts from a museum dedicated to the ancient Olympic Games.

The stolen treasures included a 3,300-year-old gold ring, a bronze statuette of a victorious athlete, a 2,400-year-old oil jar, clay lamps, bronze tripods and miniature chariot wheels, as well as dozens of idols of charioteers, horses and bulls.

"All the items were recovered," the ministry's general secretary, Lina Mendoni, told reporters in Athens.

"Next week they will regain their place at the museum," she added.

In February, police had described the robbers as amateurs who had turned up at the wrong museum.

A female guard who confronted them said they had been looking for a pair of golden wreaths, which were not kept in that particular collection.

Greece, rich in archaeological heritage, has been targeted by antiquity smugglers for decades.

But the financial crisis rocking the country has brought hundreds of staff layoffs among archaeologists and guards, leaving museums vulnerable to theft.

The Olympia robbery badly embarrassed authorities at the time. The then culture minister offered to resign but was allowed to keep his post.

It came a month after thieves broke into the Athens National Gallery and stole a painting personally gifted to Greece by Spanish-born master Pablo Picasso, in addition to two other artworks.

No arrests have been made in that case.

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