Agentschap Onroerend Erfgoed

French treasure trove finder was no honest Joe

A French national, who came forward as the finder of a hoard of Roman coins on Flemish soil, doesn’t appear to be the honest Joe many thought he was.  An investigation by the Flemish Agency for Immovable Heritage revealed that the Frenchman had hidden the treasure on his own land in Flanders after it was first dug up illegally in France.

It was in October of last year that the man revealed he had found an enormous amount of Roman coins on his land in Gingelom (Limburg). The agency investigated the find, but was puzzled by the fact that a foreigner had made such a gigantic find on own land that he had purchased abroad. Moreover, all the coins were now in two buckets in the boot of his car.  Nothing had been left in the hole in the ground.

An examination of the soil revealed that the coins could never have been dug up here.  What initially looked like the largest historical Roman find on Flemish soil soon appeared more like a deception.

The French authorities were brought in.  They interviewed the finder and he admitted that the coins were dug up illegally in France and he had simply purchased them.  Further investigation revealed that the finder had 13,000 archaeological finds in his possession that had all been acquired illegally. 

The suspicion is that the Frenchman had hoped to sidestep French legislation and benefit from the more relaxed Belgian regime.  Under Belgian law finders become the owners of all archaeological finds on their land.  By reporting a find in Flanders the Frenchman thought he could become the legal owner.

The individual coins aren’t all that valuable, but there are an awful lot of them.  Together they are worth a pretty penny.  Experts at the Royal Library in Brussels examined them and believe all coins come from one and the same find.

Flemish heritage minister Diependaele (nationalist) is insisting on the treasure being restored to its rightful owner, the French state.  In the spring of next year the coins will be handed over to the French culture minister.

Agentschap Onroerend Erfgoed

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