Champagne maker on trial for looting31st July, 2014 by Lucy Shaw
A Champagne producer has been put on trial after looting hundreds of historic French sites for artefacts to indulge his passion for archaeology.
As reported by the Daily Telegraph, police found a stash of around 2,300 found objects worth nearly €100,000 when they searched his home.
The search came after police stopped the suspect’s car for a routine check and discovered 112 Gallo-Roman coins in his vehicle.
Prosecutors have asked the court to fine him €197,000, with a four-month suspended prison sentence if convicted. They also called for his wife to be fined €5,000 for handling stolen goods.
“I wanted to be an archaeologist but I wasn’t able to do it,” the 60-year-old winemaker, whose name has not been revealed, told a court in Meaux near Paris.
Armed with a metal detector, the winemaker has spent much of his spare time over the last 30 years scouring historical sites across the country for “trouvailles” (lucky finds) without realising they were protected by law.
“I thought it was legal. I’m not a highway robber,” he told the court.
The Telegraph reports that the judge then asked if he had read The Gallic Wars, Julius Caesar’s firsthand account of his campaign in Gaul. Admitting that he hadn’t, the judge said: “That’s a pity. It’s fascinating.”
The winemaker said he had made a will leaving a large part of his collection to a local museum.
Amateur diggers pose a major threat to France’s historic sites – some 250,000 objects are reportedly unearthed illegally every year in France.