TIRANA, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Macedonian police said on Friday that they have seized thousands of valuable artifacts in a nationwide crackdown on illegal antiquities trade, the largest ever in the country's history, news from Skopje said.
"The seized amount of the artifacts is far the largest in Macedonia, and it is the result of the police operation which has been going on for almost a year," Macedonian Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska said.
In their operation in eight cities across the country early Thursday, police raided 60 homes and seized about 4000 artifacts and detained 48 people over suspicion of illegal antiquities trade.
The netted objects include 3000 coins, 20 figurines of different materials and sizes, 160 pieces of jewelry and 300 dishes of metal, stone and ceramic, with some dating back to as early as 8th century BC.
Jankulovska said criminal charges were filed against 29 of the 48 people, some of them local officials and archeologists. They are suspected of illegally excavating at archeological sites and planning selling the ill-gotten artifacts to Greece, Italy and Austria.
Macedonia is rich in history. It was reported that the western Balkan country has some 6000 registered archaeological sites on its territory.