Man who bought stolen artwork didn't know it was worth $1.2 million
Published Thursday, February 13, 2014 12:25PM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 14, 2014 12:28PM EST
Police have recovered one of two artifacts stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2011.
The recovered item was a small Persian bas-relief carving dating to the 5th Century BCE worth $1.2 million.
Police say they found in Edmonton, Alberta and have arrested the man who bought the item.
"The artifact was found in a home and the person purchased it for a value that is really inferior to the value of the artifact," said Joyce Kemp of the Surete du Quebec.
She could not say how much the item was sold for, nor would she identify who the man was.
"It might interfere with the investigation," said Kemp.
Item was bought for $1,400
However CTV News has learned the man charged with buying the item is Simon Metke, 33, of Edmonton.
Metke said he had no idea the item was stolen, and no idea it was worth more than a million dollars.
"This other guy had to pay his child support you know and pay his rent. He edged me on that it was worth a bunch more. I don't think he knew it was worth $1.2 million dollars either," said Metke.
Police raided Metke's home on Jan. 22, 2014 and he does not know why police only went public with the theft now.
Metke also said he bought the item for $1,400, believing it was a replica of a Mesopotamian artifact.
"I thought maybe bringing it to an antique roadshow sometime would have been kind of fun, or bringing it back to the Middle East and find out if somebody knew what this was or if it was real," Metke said.
Metke is scheduled to appear in court on Mar. 19.
Second item still missing
The second missing item is a bust from the era of the Roman Empire and is valued at $40,000.
The museum has long since collected insurance money for the theft, and AXA Art Insurance was, soon after the thefts, offering a reward to anyone who could locate the items or identify a man on surveillance video taking the items.
The supposed thief is still at large, but police say they have clues as to who he is.
Archeologist John Fossey believes the thief grabbed those two items simply because they were portable.
"They're small. They're easy to put in the bag. I think that's the common plot between the Roman head and our Persian guard," said Fossey.
Fossey was in Alberta when police recovered the first stolen item.
"It was a thrill, and I was there to bring it back from Edmonton to here -- and that is a day I'll never forget, travelling back in the plane with that in its box at my feet," said the retired Art History professor.
Artifacts stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts are seen in this police handout photo.