Tourists face jail after trying to take 40kg of Sardinia’s sand home

A French couple are facing up to six years in prison after being caught leaving the island with 40kg of sand from Sardinia's beaches stashed in their car.

Tourists face jail after trying to take 40kg of Sardinia's sand home
Sardinia'a white sand proves irresistable to many visitors. Photo: Depositphotos

Border agents discovered the sand, from the beach of Chia in southern Sardinia, packed into 14 plastic bottles in the trunk of the couple's SUV yesterday as they were about to board a ferry departing from Porto Torres, Sardinia, to Toulon, France.

The pair reportedly said they wanted to take the sand home as a “souvenir” and did not realise they'd committed a crime.

But Sardinia's famed white sand is a protected resource, and removing it from the island is an offence normally punishable by fines of between €500 to €3,000.

Residents have long complained that visitors help themselves to handfuls of the fine white sand on the island's north-east coast – a favourite with holiday-makers – resulting in the loss of tonnes of the precious natural resource each year.

Authorities at Sardinia's ports and airport carry out systematic bag checks to catch passengers smuggling sand.

Airport agents in Olbia confiscate around 2 tonnes of stolen sand a year, according to local news site Gallura Oggi, while another 500 kilos were seized last summer from ferry passengers at the port of Olbia, where checks are less strict.

Over the past ten years they've seized some 10 tonnes, most of it collected in half-litre bottles, according to the director of a marine reserve off Sardinia's north-eastern coast.

But this is the first reported case of somone attempting to take such a large amount of sand home with them.

Some towns around Sardinia, which is home to some of Italy's most popular beaches, have proposed banning towels and large bags in a bid to stop holidaymakers removing sand from the fragile coastline, whether deliberately or inadvertently.

There's a “growing trade” internationally in sand, pebbles, shells and other objects from Sardinia's beaches, with the stolen items often being sold on Ebay, the Corriere della Sera writes.

Some repentant sand thieves have returned sand and shells to the island recently, where it is replaced onto suitable beaches.



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New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

Prosecutors in New York on Tuesday returned dozens of antiquities stolen from Italy and valued at around $19 million, some of which were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

“These 58 pieces represent thousands of years of rich history, yet traffickers throughout Italy utilized looters to steal these items and to line their own pockets,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, noting that it was the third such repatriation in nine months.

“For far too long, they have sat in museums, homes, and galleries that had no rightful claim to their ownership,” he said at a ceremony attended by Italian diplomats and law enforcement officials.

The stolen items had been sold to Michael Steinhardt, one of the world’s leading collectors of ancient art, the DA’s office said, adding that he had been slapped with a “first-of-its-kind lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities.”


Among the recovered treasures, which in some cases were sold to “unwitting collectors and museums,” were a marble head of the Greek goddess Athena from 200 B.C.E. and a drinking cup dating back to 470 B.C.E, officials said.

The pieces were stolen at the behest of four men who “all led highly lucrative criminal enterprises – often in competition with one another – where they would use local looters to raid archaeological sites throughout Italy, many of which were insufficiently guarded,” the DA’s office said.

One of them, Pasquale Camera, was “a regional crime boss who organized thefts from museums and churches as early as the 1960s. He then began purchasing stolen artifacts from local looters and sold them to antiquities dealers,” it added.

It said that this year alone, the DA’s office has “returned nearly 300 antiquities valued at over $66 million to 12 countries.”