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article imageBusted: Relic trafficker with alleged saints in his luggage

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By R. C. Camphausen     May 25, 2010 in Crime
A small yet truly global operation was foiled when a Swiss man was busted who tried to transport skulls and bones stemming from Greek Orthodox burials to a Russian Orthodox priest in Germany who wanted to start a church in India.
On Sunday, Pentecost, police arrested a 24-year-old deacon from Sidirokastro in northern Greece, finding more than 500 human bones and 15 skulls at his home. During the search, agents also discovered a 19th century religious icon, an old Byzantine cross and several ancient coins.
The suspect, a deacon of the Greek Orthodox Church, had come to the attention of the police after an accomplice, a 43-year-old Swiss national of undisclosed religious affiliation, had been arrested at Thessaloniki Airport where he tried to board a plane with 3 skulls and almost two-hundred bones in his luggage, meaning to take these out of the country. According to Kathimerini, a Greek newspaper in English, the items were meant to be delivered - i.e. sold - to a Russian Orthodox priest presently living in Germany. It seems that the Greek and Swiss accomplices tried to sell the items as genuine relics of deceased saints. Some items had name-tags such as St Andrew, St Dimitris and St Basil, and all of the skulls and bones had been doused in incense-like fragrances.
As of now it is unknown whether or not the receiver was to be deceived, who planned to take the 'relics' to India in order to start a new church, or if he perhaps knew that it was all faked and wanted to deceive his future parishioners with some ancient relics from Christian lands. Among the items found by police were also two nails labeled 'Holy Nails of Jesus,' apparently an attempt to pass them off as nails used during the crucifixion.
According to the head of the financial crimes section of Thessaloniki's police department, the two suspects face charges of theft, trafficking and desecration, and the BBC quotes the officer as saying that this was an "unprecedented case."
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