German citizen Zeno Pop, accused of trafficking treasure items stolen from the Sarmizegetusa Regia archaeological site in Orastiei Mountains (center-west), including an almost 1-kilo gold bangle, Dacian ornaments, Geto-Dacian and Roman coins, ceramic and stone artefacts, was sentenced to 3 years on probation in a final ruling by the Bucharest Court of Appeal.
He must perform unpaid work for the benefit of the community for a period of 80 days within the Sector 1 Bucharest Public Domain Administration or the Sector 1 Local Police.
The Court upheld the civil rulings of the Bucharest Tribunal (first instance court), according to which the defendant must pay the Culture Ministry 72,654 euros in damages.
It still has to be determined how this amount will be recovered, as the Romanian court found that the precautionary seizure instated on Zeno Pop’s real estate assets, specifically on two land plots of 819 sqm and 431 sqm (for the purpose of covering the legal expenses and the material damage), was overturned on 04.08.2021 by the final ruling of the Linz Court of Appeal.
The Bucharest Tribunal also ordered the seizure of several items from the German national: 473 Roman Republican and Dacian silver coins, 7 silver bracelets, a necklace and 23 Geto-Dacian coins. All these items were handed over to Romania, based on a 2017 ruling of the Salzburg Court.
On the other hand, the judges rejected the prosecutors’ request to confiscate other items, specifically 10 ceramic or stone archaeological artifacts which will be returned to the German citizen. The request for the confiscation of 72,150 euros, representing the money obtained by coin trading, was also rejected.
Also, the magistrates didn’t agree with the confiscation of a multi-spiral gold bangle weighing 933.4 grams, which in the custody of the National Museum of Romanian History.
According to the General Prosecutor’s Office, between 2005 and 2015, Zeno Pop got possession of and sold numerous assets belonging to the national cultural heritage, which were stolen from Romanian archaeological sites; he did so by hiding or concealing the true source and ownership of the items.
In 2006 the defendant sold to a Bulgarian collector a gold multi-spiral bangle (weighing 933.4 g, looted from the Archaeological Reserve in Orastiei Mountains – the Sarmizegetusa Regia archaeological site) acquired in 2005, presenting it to the buyer as coming from a private collection.
Zeno Pop also got possession of 18 Dacian silver items of jewelry, 23 Geto-Dacian coins (which come from at least four dispersed monetary hoards), a batch of 473 Roman Republican and Dacian silver coins, as well as 10 archaeological ceramic or stone artifacts, knowing that they were sourced by crimes committed on the territory of Romania.
According to invoices dated between 2007 and 2013, Zeno Pop traded to various individuals or companies (from Europe and the U.S.) over one thousand coins (Lysimachos, Iustinian solidi, Lysimachos-type gold staters, Roman Republic denarii, and an Eastern Celtic drachma).
According to the General Prosecutor’s Office, various persons acted as money and artifact launderers to broker these items; some of them were sent to court and convicted in other cases built by the Public Prosecution Office.
The coins identified in the aforementioned invoices were recovered by the judicial authorities in other criminal cases, some settled definitively, and others in the process of being settled, following expert’s assessments that determined that they come from monetary hoards looted from Romanian archaeological sites.
The Prosecutor’s Office specifies that the multi-spiral gold bangle was returned to the Romanian judicial authorities on May 9, 2011, based on the compensation granted under the terms of the UNIDROIT Convention to the bona fide collector who cooperated with the judicial authorities. The respective jewel item is currently in the custody of the National Museum of Romanian History in Bucharest and belongs to the national cultural heritage, Treasure category.
This is the 13th bangle recovered by the Romanian authorities (out of a total of 15 bangles stolen from archaeological sites between 2000 and 2001); it was found that, similar to the previously examined 12 multi-spiral gold bangles, its place of origin is the Sarmizegetusa Regia archaeological site (the capital of Dacia) – the Caprareata archaeological point, and was part of a royal treasure hidden in the center of the Dacian kingdom.
Other recovered items – specifically 473 coins and 18 Dacian silver ornaments – were repatriated and are in the custody of the National Museum of Romanian History.