Police in Madrid have seized 60 million euros ($63.7 million) worth of ancient gold artifacts that had been stolen from Ukraine, the Spanish Interior Ministry announced on Oct. 23.
In a joint operation with the the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), the Spanish police seized 11 pieces of Scythian gold that had been "stolen and illicitly exported from Ukraine" in the first few months of 2016.
The Scythians were an ancient nomadic people who lived in what is now southern Ukraine and were highly skilled goldsmiths. The jewelry found in Spain dates from the eighth to the fourth centuries BCE.
The discovery of the stolen gold is the result of a long-term operation that has uncovered "a criminal network dedicated to the illicit trafficking of cultural property from Ukraine," the police said.
A network of Ukrainian and Spanish citizens were attempting to sell the pieces using forged documents that said they were the property of a Ukrainian Orthodox priest who lives in Madrid.
One piece had already been seized by investigators in 2021, after it was sold privately to a businessman.
Due to the great historical value, the jewelry could not be "sold through the usual legal channels, such as auction rooms."
Spanish police arrested three Spaniards and two Ukrainians in connection with the case.
The investigation involved collaboration from the authorities in Bulgaria, Albania, North Macedonia, and Cyprus, as well as Ukraine.
The jewelry was previously exhibited in an unnamed Kyiv museum between 2009 and 2013. Spanish experts are currently assessing the pieces, the police said.