Two Italian police officers on assignment in Belgium were exploring some of Brussels' antique shops after work when they discovered a $120,000 Roman statue, stolen from Italy nearly a decade ago. The statue of a headless Roman in a draped toga struck the men as suspicious. As members of the Italian police's archaeological unit, Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (TPC), they recognized that the statue was of Italian origin and showed damage from excavation tools, reports NPR. Once they got back to Italy, the officers learned the marble statue, from the first century, had been swiped in November 2011 from the Villa Marini Dettina archaeological site outside Rome.
Photos of the "Togatus" statue, featuring one arm across the chest, matched a file in a database of stolen cultural assets. Then began the process of securing the statue's return. A European Investigation Order was filed before the statue, worth an estimated $120,000, was finally returned to Italy in February. The TPC shared photos of several officers transporting the life-size statue, covered in bubble wrap, per NPR. An Italian businessman who used a Spanish alias is believed to have received the statue before sending it on to Belgium, per Sky News. He has been referred to Italian prosecutors for investigation, police said. (Read more stolen art stories.)