Fakes and copies
Antiquities and Archaeology
Police raid criminal gang suspected of faking antiquities
Alleged forgers used x-ray machine to cheat dating tests; arrests include boxer and hospital nurse
By Tina Lepri and Ermanno Rivetti. News, Issue 232, February 2012
Published online: 21 February 2012
A two-and-a-half-year-long suspected archaeological fraud involving thousands of forged Greek and Etruscan artefacts, a hospital x-ray machine, a philanthropic aristocrat and a sophisticated network of forgers has come to an abrupt end after police raids late last year on two homes belonging to alleged members of a gang. Seven arrests were made and a further seven suspects are under investigation.
The gang was allegedly led by Edoardo David, a renowned archaeologist who often worked as a consultant for the archeological division of the Soprintendenza for the Lazio region (the local arm of Italy’s ministry of culture), and his two principal associates, Massimo Monaco, a former boxer, and Mariano Capomaggi, all of whom are being held at the Regina Coeli prison in Rome awaiting trial.
Four other people are under house arrest: Enrico Corradi, an antiques dealer from Aprilia, near Rome; Massimo Bordo, a ceramics expert, and Massimiliano Congiu, both from Tarquinia, near Rome; and Enrico Diomedi, a nurse who allegedly helped the gang produce thousands of suspected fakes by giving them access to an x-ray machine in the hospital at Tivoli, also near Rome.
The x-rays interfered with the outcome of any thermoluminescence testing of these modern pieces. Thermoluminescence is the faint light emitted by a ceramic that has been fired at a sufficiently high temperature. This light can be measured to establish the age of the piece; the brighter the light, the older the piece. Test results are invalidated if the piece is exposed to radiation.
Between March 2009 and April 2010, Marquis Roberto Bilotti Ruggi d’Aragona, an aristocratic philanthropist and antiques collector from Rome, who hoped to expand his collection and establish his own family museum of antiquities, spent €600,000 on around 300 works that the police believe to be fakes.
He also says that he exchanged many of his own valuable items, including family heirlooms and antique furniture, with the gang for a number of artefacts he believed to be real. The gang is believed to have acquired more than €1m worth of items from his collection. The marquis eventually became suspicious about the sheer number of rare artefacts he was being offered. He finally contacted the police in April 2010 after he was assaulted and robbed by unidentified assailants who broke into his home to steal a historic vase depicting the robing of Achilles, an artefact he had repeatedly refused to trade with the alleged forgers.
The police raided two properties belonging to Edoardo David and Massimo Bordo. They found more than 2,000 authentic artefacts at David’s property. The provenances of all the items have yet to be fully investigated, although some were purchased from the marquis, and the police have identified many others as stolen. The police also found 3,000 allegedly forged artefacts ready for market at Bordo’s property.
Bordo, an expert in ceramics, allegedly used complex techniques to produce the fakes, grinding up a small amount of authentic antique ceramic material and blending it with the ordinary, modern mix from which he would then shape the artefacts.
The police are now trying to establish whether there are any further victims, as well as any other accomplices.
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