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Trove of Smuggled Artworks Discovered in Istanbul

According to the Hurriyet Daily News, police have raided a house in Istanbul’s Ataşehir district and seized fifty-five stolen paintings, lecterns, and calligraphic works, with a total value of at least $20 million. The Istanbul police department’s anti-smuggling teams were tipped off that a smuggler, identified only by the initials M.N.K., was planning to transport the artifacts abroad but had also tried to sell them to Arab tourists in Istanbul.

The authorities caught the criminal by posing as Arab tourists. Saying they would sell the paintings to rich customers in London and New York, they pretended to make a deal exchanging one million Turkish liras for fifty-five objects. During the bargaining, police teams identified the home address where the artifacts were being kept and raided it. All works were seized by the authorities and the suspect was taken into custody.

A commission of archaeologists examined the pieces at a local museum and found that fifty were genuine and five were fake, further noting that eighteen paintings were made by the twentieth century Turkish painter Nazmi Ziya Güran, as well as Armenian and Greek painters from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.