Stolen & Looted: Convicted Smuggler and Looter Reveals Trade Secrets

Pietro Casasanta spent five decades robbing his country of priceless artifacts and cultural items which he sold on the open market. According to Signor Casasanta, however, his efforts should earn him a senator’s seat instead of a jail cell.

Look below the fold to find out why.

The testimony that allowed Casasanta’s description of the methods and extent to which he and his people plundered Roman villas and archaeological sites of their artifacts and art came during the trial of Getty curator (former) Marion True and art dealer (former) Robert Hecht, who are both charged with trafficking in stolen antiquities. Though he never met with or dealt with True and Hecht directly, Casasanta was providing the court with an overview of the way the illegal antiquities market worked in Italy. He claimed that his plunders saved art that would have been destroyed anyway in development projects and fancied himself just in his work:

I saved thousands of artifacts that would have been ground into cement. … It’s a shame that they don’t make me a senator for life.

Apparently, much of the art he recovered was in the rubble being moved for construction of buildings and public works, but rather than share the treasure with the Italian public, he chose to profit from the finds. He even admitted to “excavations” of his own and the manner in which the loot was processed:

Casasanta told the court he would poke around construction sites and find treasures in piles of earth that had been dug up. But he also organized his own vast excavations – largely the ruins of ancient Roman countryside villas – working in daylight with two or three people using bulldozers over thousands of square yards.

He also explained how he and other looters would give their finds a clean record by selling them to themselves at international auction houses through dummy companies or straw men.

“This allowed me to legalize the piece and put a price on it,” he told the judges.

Its good to see the Italian and Greek governments working hard to get a handle on their national treasures. To paraphrase Colin Renfrew, it’s the curators and dealers who are perhaps the most complicit since those that plunder antiquities of their nations wouldn’t have a market without them. I think the on-going trial of True and Hecht (of the Hecht co. department stores chain) will be on the minds dealers and curators for years to come.

Source: Witness in Italy antiquities case reveals secrets of art looting

About Carl Feagans 397 Articles
Professional archaeologist that currently works for the United States Forest Service at the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area in Kentucky and Tennessee. I'm also a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Army and spent another 10 years doing adventure programming with at-risk teens before earning my master's degree at the University of Texas at Arlington.

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