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ARCHAEOLOGY

Bavarian police confiscate Latin American treasures

Police in Bavaria have confiscated a trove of ancient Latin American artefacts from the Mayan, Aztec and Incan cultures worth an estimated $100 million.

Bavarian police confiscate Latin American treasures
Photo: Bavarian state police

The collection of cultural treasures is thought to have been smuggled to Munich from Costa Rica by way of Spain, according to the Bavarian state police. Several countries including Peru, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala and El Salvador lay claim to various items that were in the possession of a 66-year-old Costa Rican art collector.

According to the Munich-based daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, the man, identified as Leonardo Augustus P., claims to be a former diplomat who properly obtained the artifacts. The man, now a resident primarily of Geneva, is reportedly well-known to police dealing with smuggled art and exotic animals on several continents. He has even picked up the unflattering nickname “The Thief of the Treasures” in his native Costa Rica.

“At the moment it’s still unclear how this collection was put together in its current form,” police said in a statement. “Presently there is no indication as to whether the items were stolen or raided.”

Although the collection was displayed in 1997 in the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela, the man from Costa Rica did not have proper authorization to transport them outside of Spain. After the Costa Rican government alerted German authorities last week that the collection might be on its way to Germany, the Bavarian police tracked down the archaeological treasures.

“It still has to be determined who actually owns the items,” Detlef Puchelt, spokesman for the Bavarian state police, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

GERMANY AND ISRAEL

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.

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