A French treasure hunter who allegedly amassed more than 27,000 artifacts — ranging from Bronze Age bracelets to an extremely rare Roman dodecahedron — by looting archaeological sites could spend time behind bars for the illegal collection, according to new reports.
Authorities seized the 27,400 objects following a year-long investigation conducted by French customs, Belgian authorities and the French culture ministry, Agence France-Presse reported.
He allegedly collected the items using metal detectors and his own archaeological knowledge.
But red flags arose last year, when the man, identified only as Patrice T, claimed he dug up 14,154 Roman coins in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium, according to The Guardian.
He said he was using a metal detector when he happened to come across the relics at two sites near Gingelom, a Flemish town 40 miles east of Brussels, the paper reported.
Metal detectors are only permitted for scientific research in France, but in Flanders, they can be used for personal searches, according to the report. So the coins were legally declared as Patrice’s property, the paper reported.
However, Patrice’s story began to unravel when the Belgian Agency for Immovable Heritage informed French customs it seemed unlikely that such a large discovery could turn up at that location, according to the outlet.
French officials then raided the man’s house, finding the large cache of items, including bracelets and necklaces from the Bronze and Iron ages, and a hollow copper Roman dodecahedron of which only a hundred known copies still exist.
The French customs service confirmed the treasure hunter actually amassed the haul through “the looting of various sites in France.”
The case was handled over to the judiciary, with potential penalties including massive fines and jail time.
Bruno Le Maire, France’s economy minister, called the findings an “invaluable archaeological treasure.”
“This is a clear message to those who, for the benefit and selfish pleasure of a few, rob us of our common heritage and erase entire swaths of our history,” Le Maire said in a statement.
With Post wires