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Border guards seize pythons at French border

Swiss border guards in the canton of Jura got an unexpected surprise recently when they discovered four royal pythons in the boot of a car.

Border guards seize pythons at French border
Photo: Federal customs administration border guards

The snakes were discovered by agents at Goumois, at the French border, when they checked a vehicle registered in France last week, the Swiss federal customs administration said on Tuesday.

Their attention was drawn by a polystrene box in the back of the car.

When they opened it, the customs officials discovered the snakes coiled inside.

The royal python is a listed species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The reptiles being brought from France were destined for illegal sale in Switzerland, customs officials said.

The pythons were seized and placed in a vivarium in Switzerland, customs said.

An investigation was opened into the case by the customs anti-fraud department in Basel.

It turns out there have been other similar seizures of the species by Swiss customs officials.

Last September, officials in Stein in the canton of Aargau caught a German man attempting to smuggle a royal python across the border in a van, along with four other snakes, including two boa constrictors, and four geckos.

The man was fined 1,200 francs after he was unable to provide the necessary documents proving ownership of the reptiles.

The royal python, a non-venomous snake that commonly grows to a length of about 120 centimetres, is native to an area of Africa stretching from Senegal to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Experts believe it got its name from reports that Cleopatra, the Egyptian pharaoh, wore the colourful snakes as bracelets around her wrists.

Although the python is not currently considered to be endangered, it was listed under an appendix to CITES in a bid to regulate trade in the species. 

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Italians recover looted artefacts from Basel

The Italian government on Wednesday said police had seized more than 5,000 ancient artefacts in a record €45-million haul after dismantling a Swiss-Italian trafficking ring.

Italians recover looted artefacts from Basel
Italian police show off artefacts looted by Swiss-Italian smuggling ring. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said it was the country's "largest discovery yet" of looted works and consisted of 5,361 pieces, including vases, jewellery, frescoes and bronze statues, all dating from the eighth century BC to the third century AD.
   
The archaeological treasures came from illegal digs across Italy and "will be returned to where they were found", the minister told reporters.
   
Police said the items were worth around 45 million euros ($52 million) and were sold across the world with forged certificates of authenticity.
   
The hoard was discovered as part of an investigation into Italian art dealer Gianfranco Becchina, who owns an art gallery in Switzerland, and his Swiss wife.
   
The probe, which also involved Swiss police, revealed the existence of a sophisticated smuggling network between the two countries and prompted raids on several warehouses in Basel where hundreds of artefacts were recovered.
 
Carabinieri general Mariano Mossa, who heads a special Italian police unit specializing in stolen art, said the looted works were sent to Switzerland to be restored before being sold in Germany, Britain, the United States, Japan and Australia using counterfeit provenance papers.
   
Becchina was detained by Italian police while his wife was arrested by Swiss police.
   
The Italian authorities have promised to put the artefacts found in the
raids on display to the public.

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