First illicit treasure-seekers sentenced in Latvia

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Three illicit treasure-seekers have been sentenced by the Alūksne district court to 160 hours community service, reported LETA Wednesday; it's the first-ever sentence for such offences in Latvia. The three men were sentenced for illegally seeking artifacts in the Asari ancient burial ground in Alsviķi parish.

The State Cultural Monument Protection Authority (VKPAI) said that the men were caught with their hands dirty in April by local police. In 2013 new burials were discovered in the protected zone of the Asari burial ground, and it was these that attracted the unscrupulous archaeologists' attention.

Inspector of the VKPAI Sarmīte Dundure said that treasure-seekers are hard to catch on the spot as their misdeeds are usually discovered once the damage is done. "But in this case the guilty persons were found to be carrying many artifacts that testified without a doubt that they had dug up the burials," she said.

She said that about 100 illicit dig-ups have been registered in the past few years. Often locals report that people who are seeking old things for museums are wandering around the area.

"Not a single museum is collecting its wares like that. It's more than obvious that these people are engaged in illegal business, so in cases like these you should call the police," the representative of the VKPAI said.

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