Stolen treasures returned

Treasures stolen from churches in northern Sweden over a period of twenty years has been returned to the country after being found in an apartment on Tenerife. But the return of the treasure threatens to create new problems for churches, many of which have received insurance money after the thefts.

The objects arrived in Sweden on Monday on a flight from Spain.

“There are around a hundred pieces, ranging from small silver candlesticks to lifesize wooden figures,” said Christer Johansson, police spokesman in Sundsvall.

The objects are now being taken to the police station in Sundsvall, where representatives of the affected churches will be able to come to identify the goods.

“Over the past few years we have catalogued all churches that have been the victim of break-ins. Unfortunately, it seems that half of what has been stolen is still missing,” said Johansson.

“It is possible that the man who has been arrested has more objects hidden in Spain or Sweden.”

The Spanish citizen, who has been held since October, is refusing to admit any crime.

“He is refusing to cooperate with police and the Swedish authorities. He will be prosecuted in April,” said Johansson.

The man moved from Spain to Sweden thirty years ago. He was then barred for life from entering Sweden, after being convicted of a string of crimes. Police caught up with him when a silver crucifix that had been stolen from a church in Norrland was put up for sale on the internet.

Some 150 stolen objects were found in a store in Hälsingland, northern Sweden, and over a hundred objects which police say were stolen from Swedish churches were found in the man’s home on Tenerife.

Police say that the insurance value of the items returned from Spain is several million kronor.

This could cause some problems for the churches hoping to reclaim their treasures, Swedish Radio has reported. Many parishes long ago received insurance money, which has frequently been spent on producing replicas of the stolen objects.

“When we have paid out money for an object, we own it,” Ulf Bäckman at insurance company If told SR.

“If they show up again we offer the former owners the chance to buy them back,” he added.