One was an Italian who got his start peddling trinkets on the streets of Rome. Another was an American expatriate who could close a deal for a Greek vase in six languages. The third was a flashy British dealer whose eye for ancient art dazzled the world’s wealthiest clients. For 40 years, these men dominated the trade in Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities. Italian authorities say they were also “promoters and organizers” of a network that spirited looted art out of the Mediterranean and into display cases of leading museums and private collections worldwide, reports the Los Angeles Times.
For 10 years, the Italians have focused on the trio – largely unknown outside their niche market – as they have built a criminal case that eventually ensnared one of the men’s biggest customers, Marion True, until this fall the curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Court records detailing that investigation, along with internal Getty documents and rare interviews with all three dealers, provide a clear look at the inner workings of a $4-billion-a-year illicit trade that floods the antiquities market.