The widespread looting of religious art treasures from Orthodox churches in the north after 1974 is epitomized by the fate of the Kanakaria mosaics, whose story reads like a Hollywood thriller. At some point between 1974 and 1979, thieves raided the church of Panagia Kanakaria, about halfway along the Karpaz Peninsula, and made off with four sections of its sixth century mosaics. In 1988, Indianapolis art dealer Peg Goldberg (“Indiana Peg”, perhaps) agreed to buy the mosaics from a Turkish art dealer for just over $1million. Goldberg soon began hawking the mosaics around museums and art galleries in the US, with a price tag of $20million. One museum, the Getty, became suspicious, and checked with the authorities in Cyprus. It confirmed that the mosaics were stolen and demanded their return. The Church of Cyprus followed up with a legal claim, and the Indiana Federal Court found in favour of their repatriation. In 1991 the mosaics were returned to the Archbishop Makarios III Cultural Centre in Lefkosia, where they can be seen today.

The dealer who sold the mosaics, Aydin Dikmen, was tracked down to Munich in 1997 and his flat raided by police. They discovered a huge haul of Cypriot icons, frescoes, bibles and other artefacts worth some $40million. After a tortuous legal dispute with the German authorities the stolen artworks were eventually repatriated in 2010. For more information on Cypriot icons, see Iconography: Religious art in Cyprus.

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