Credit: JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP/Getty Images
French man investigated over 27,400 item archaeological hoard
French authorities are investigating a man who allegedly found 27,400 archaeological artifacts -- including more than 14,000 Roman coins.
In September 2019, the French national said he had discovered 14,154 coins on land he owns in Belgium, but Belgian authorities questioned the man's story and contacted their French counterparts, according to a press release from French customs authorities published Wednesday.
If the man, whose name has not been released by authorities, had found the coins in Belgium he would have had the right to keep them, but archaeological objects found in France are the property of the state.
Officials searched two properties in eastern France, a French customs spokeswoman told CNN.
The man admitted that the Roman coins had in fact been found on French soil, said customs agent Florent Nourian in a video released by the customs agency.
In addition to the Roman coins, authorities found more than 13,000 other archaeological artifacts of "exceptional quality," according to the press release.
The haul included bracelets and necklaces made during the Bronze and Iron Ages, Roman and Gallic coins, and a Roman dodecahedron, of which there are only around 100 known examples.
Other objects included pieces of statues as well as belt buckles from various historical ages.
Officials seized a total of 27,400 objects of "inestimable value" in one of the largest recoveries of looted artifacts in French history, the press release said.
The customs agency has finished its investigation and will pass the file onto public prosecutors in the next few days, a spokeswoman for the agency told CNN on Thursday.
French finance minister Bruno Le Maire hailed the "exemplary cooperation" between French and Belgian authorities.
"It allowed the seizure of an invaluable archaeological treasure. The offender is liable to imprisonment and hundreds of thousands of euros in customs fines," he said.
"It is a clear message addressed to those who, for the benefit and selfish pleasure of a few, deprive us of our common heritage and erase entire sections of our history. "
French culture minister Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin emphasized "the importance of European cooperation in the face of criminal activity that knows no borders."