Man posing as J'lem tour guide nabbed for selling ancient coins to tourists

Suspected antiquities thief caught in possession of 100 impressive antique coins of various shapes and sizes.

stolen coins 224.88 (photo credit: Israel Antiquities Authority)
stolen coins 224.88
(photo credit: Israel Antiquities Authority)
A 43-year-old Arab resident of east Jerusalem has been arrested for allegedly posing as a city tour guide and selling tourists various rare antique coins, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Tuesday. The suspected antiquities thief was nabbed red-handed on Sunday in the Old City of Jerusalem by the state-run archeological body's anti-theft division in the midst of making a sale to unsuspecting tourists. The suspect was found to be carrying around 100 impressive antique coins of various shapes and sizes, including Roman coins and a motley collection of other coins dating back to the Hellenistic Period. The coins, which were taken from various archeological sites across the country, are valued in the thousands of dollars. A subsequent search of the suspect's car uncovered various antique ceramic utensils dating back thousands of years which he had apparently also intended to sell, in addition to another cache of antique coins. "It is important that the public know that antique coins which are being offered for sale on the street and in markets were illegally excavated at archeological sites throughout Israel," said Shai Bar-Tura, the deputy head of the Antiquities Authority's anti-theft division. "Our history is being sold for greed," he said. The suspect, who has been released from police custody, is expected to be indicted on charges of antiquities theft in a Jerusalem court in the coming weeks. Damaging an antiquities site is a criminal offense, which carries a sentence of up to five years in jail, although most antiquities thieves usually only get up to a year in prison. About 300 archeology thefts are detected each year in Israel, with the illicit antiquities trade on the black market in the country estimated to be in the millions of dollars annually. The phenomenon of antiquities theft has taken on gold-rush dimensions with an antiquities site now plundered nearly every day on average.