The aim of Operation Pandora was to dismantle criminal networks involved in cultural theft and exploitation, and identify potential links to other criminal activities. Moreover, there was a special focus on cultural spoliation, both underwater and on land, and the illicit trafficking of cultural goods, with a particular emphasis on conflict countries.
From the start of the operation, Europol played a central role in coordinating and directing the entire operation. In addition, the agency supported the concerted action from its 24/7 operational coordination centre in The Hague by providing operational and analytical support and facilitating information exchange.
Operation Pandora took place in October and November 2016 and had a joint action week from 17 to 23 November 2016. Several police officers were deployed on the spot during this week to assist national authorities with inspections and searches.
Europol reports 3561 works of art and cultural goods were seized, almost half of which were archaeological objects; 500 archaeological objects were found in Murcia, Spain, of which 19 were stolen in 2014 from the Archaeological Museum in Murcia; over 400 coins from different periods were seized following investigations into suspicious online advertisements; 75 individuals were arrested.
The following EU Member States participated in Operation Pandora: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom. Non-EU countries involved: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Switzerland.
UNESCO contributed to the operation by providing training materials and offering recommendations to the participating countries.
Illustration: courtesy of Europol