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Dozens of exhibits were stolen from the museum of Ancient Olympia

18 February 2012 / 18:02:02  GRReporter
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Yesterday at the old Archaeological Museum of Ancient Olympia a robbery was carried out by two masked men armed with submachine guns. The two perpetrators threatened the security officer, they tied her up and silenced her, after which they broke five glass showcases and stole the valuables from them.

The police reacted immediately and started to search the area around and inside the museum to gather some evidence that might help to find the perpetrators of the daring robbery. The officials at the museum are also expected to give testimony, as well as the residents in the area who possibly could have seen the perpetrators.

According to some sources, the two perpetrators drifted away from the museum and walked for some time before getting into a car.

Meanwhile, the inventory of ancient objects stolen from the five broken showcases continues in order to get a complete picture of the losses.

The Governor of the Prefecture of Western Greece Apostolos Katsifaras and the chairman of the Regional Council Costas Karpetas have already arrived in Ancient Olympia. In a statement Katsifaras stressed that "the immediate unravelling of the case and the return the stolen valuables is a matter of honour."

"65 small bronze votive objects, of the thousands which are in Olympia have been stolen" said in a statement the Secretary of the Ministry of Culture Lena Mendoni. As for the security of the museum, she said that generally there were supposed to be three security guards.

Mendoni indicated that the employee, who was on duty at the museum at the time of the robbery, is in a serious mental state and added: "She told us what happened, but from now on the police will take over the case."

According to sources, the employee, attacked by the thieves, came first to the museum and the second guard arrived shortly after the robbery. The third guard was on leave.

Besides searching the area in and around the museum, police scrutinized video recordings from the security cameras in the museum. The roads in the area have been blocked and police are checking the cars travelling in the area.

Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos handed in his resignation to Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.

"In Ancient Olympia there was a robbery, not theft»

"The political leadership of the country knows very well that there is a huge shortage of security guards in the museums and at the archaeological sites. We must, however, emphasize that in the museum of Ancient Olympia there wasn’t a theft but a robbery, which is something completely different. Two masked men entered the museum with automatic Kalashnikov gund in their hands, having previously forced the security guard to turn of the alarm system. The case in the National Gallery in January is quite different", said George Dimakakos, Secretary of the Union of officers guarding the museums and archaeological sites.

He said that currently there are 1,200 available places for security guards in such sites, and about 130 guards had retired in late 2011 so as not to fall under the labour reserve.

Over the coming months the number of security guards is expected to decrease further as the guards of museums and archaeological sites have not been excluded from the labour reserve. "The worst is that officers are not expected to be appointed with contracts", said Dimakakos.

It should be noted that security problems are experienced mainly by museums and archaeological sites on the islands and the Union of Greek officers guarding the museums and archaeological sites considers that the number of guards in Ancient Olympia is also insufficient.

Accusations are made by the Union of the not regularly appointed employees in the Ministry of Culture

The President of the Union of the not regularly appointed employees in the Ministry of Culture Nikos Hasomeris said that the political leadership of the ministry is also responsible for the robbery. For a year and a half Hasomeris has been trying to meet the leaders of the ministry to discuss issues related to the security of the museums and archaeological sites.

In addition to this, on 15th of February, when the law on violence in stadiums was voted, Hasomeris requested that the security personnel and other officials in the ministry of culture be included in it, but the management did not pay any attention to him.

Federation of the officials in the Ministry of Culture

The armed robbery at the museum of Ancient Olympia was discussed also in a message from the Federation of staff in the Ministry of Culture.

According to the Federation, "the unacceptable policy of staff reduction and the creation of a labour reserve in such a vulnerable sector as is the guarding of museums and archaeological sites passes on the treasures of the country into the hands of ruthless armed robbers, endangering the lives of employees."

It shall also be stated that the Federation had promptly signalled the dangers of underfunding and a shortage of security guards, as a result of the measures imposed by the Troika and the creditors. "The security guards in museums and archaeological sites are working with their lives being endangered, and it is known that one security guard is the same as no security guard. Unfortunately, the position of the Federation that the Ministry of Culture be dispensed from the job cuts and from participation in the creation of labour reserve was not heard in due time and now this incident has discredited our country internationally."

Tags: Archaeological Museum Ancient Olympia robbery armed perpetrators Ministry of Culture
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