SPANISH police have recovered a priceless ancient gold mask that was illegally exported from Colombia.
Policia Nacional, working with colleagues from the South American country, recovered the stunning Tumaco gold art-piece at Madrid’s Barajas airport.
It was part of a shipment which included several extremely rare pre-Columbian gold figurines and jewellery illegally plundered from archaeological sites in the country.
Three traffickers were arrested in Spain and the Colombian authorities carried out house searches in Bogota, resulting in the seizure of another 242 ancient objects, the largest ever seizure in the country’s history.
The operation was part of a massive global action against traders in illicit cultural items.
More than 19,000 archaeological artefacts and other artworks were recovered as part of the operation spanning 103 countries and focusing on the dismantlement of international networks of art and antiquities traffickers.
A total of 101 suspects have been arrested and 300 investigations opened as part of the coordinated crackdown.
Criminal networks handled archaeological goods and artwork looted from war-stricken countries, as well as works stolen from museums and archaeological sites.
Operation ATHENA II was led by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and Interpol, in synchronisation with the Europe-focused Operation PANDORA IV, coordinated by the Spanish Guardia Civil and Europol.