THESSALONIKI (AP).- A Greek court has imposed life sentences on two men convicted of dealing in ancient treasure worth an estimated 12 million ($15.85 million), which had been illegally excavated from a cemetery in northern Greece.
The court in the northern city of Thessaloniki jailed two more men for 20 and 16 years, respectively, after finding them guilty of digging up and transporting the antiquities.
The severity of Friday's sentences was due to the high market value of the loot more than 70 artifacts from the 6th century B.C.
These included gold masks, four helmets, a glass perfume bottle, small clay statues, part of a gold diadem and parts of an iron sword decorated with gold leaf.
Archaeologists are currently excavating an ancient cemetery near Thessaloniki where the finds came from.
Antiquities in Greece are all state property by law. But smuggling is a major problem in the country, where relics of a rich ancient past often lie just inches beneath the surface.
Looting deprives archaeologists of valuable contextual information that would emerge from a proper excavation. Without such clues, finds however impressive are little more than pretty artifacts with a high commercial value.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.