”There are people stealing our ancient relics. I hope this verdict will set a precedent so that it will act as a deterrent for others in the trade,” Cecilia Schelin Seidegård, county governor for Gotland, told local paper Gotlands Tidningar.
Police recovered a silver treasure in November 2010, dating back to the 11th century and stolen from a field in Gandarve, Alva on Gotland in 2009.
The treasure comprised over 2,000 silver coins from Germany, England and the Arab world and its value has been estimated at 1.2 million kronor ($198,181).
The County Administrative Board (Länsstyrelsen) had discovered the unauthorized dig comprising 250 pits in a field in October 2009.
After a preliminary investigation silver coins and part of an 11th century crucifix was found in the ground near the looters’ dig.
It is often very difficult to both detect and solve these kinds of crimes but in this case the suspects were linked to the crime scene by the remarkable discovery of the broken crucifix.
Several days after finding the dig, an email was discovered by chance with a photo of a part of a crucifix up for sale.
It was sold to a man from southern Sweden and was later discovered in his home.
The trail led Police back to a well-known coin dealer in Stockholm.
During a raid on his property on Gotland, investigators came across muddy clothes, metal detectors, shovels, backpacks and a car especially equipped with night vision.
After examining computers and GPS equipment, police also found links between the defendants and two other places where looters had struck on Gotland.
The charges against the defendants included preparation of aggravated crime against relics and aggravated crime against relics, which carries a penalty of up to four years in prison.
The court found three of the defendants guilty of preparation of aggravated crime against relics and aggravated crime against relics.
They were sentenced to up to a year in prison. Not satisfied with this verdict, however, the prosecutor took the case to the court of appeals and two of the men were subsequently sentenced to 14 months in prison and one to 18 months in prison.
On Gotland, authorities are pleased with the result.
“It feels great. In our appeal we have been worker for a harsher sentence and above all to get the artefacts back and compensation for the work we have done,” Schelin Seidegård told the paper.