Quebec provincial police and the RCMP have made an arrest in the recovery of an artifact stolen in 2011 from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts worth an estimated $1.2-million.
The SQ's special art-theft investigative unit was working on a tip and recovered the piece of art late last month at an Edmonton home where a 33-year-old man was arrested.
The artifact was stolen in September 2011. Video footage of the theft was released a year later.
The antiquity in question is a Persian sandstone bas-relief of the head of a guard dating back to the fifth century B.C. It's about eight by eight inches; officials say its small size explains how someone could have slipped it into a bag or large pocket and make off with it.
Police say they believe the suspect bought the artifact for a couple of hundred dollars.
"I can't give you details as to how it was purchased because the investigation is still ongoing, it might interfere with the next steps of the investigation," SQ spokesperson Joyce Kemp told a news conference.
Professor John Fossey, emeritus curator of Mediterranean archaeology at the museum, told reporters he didn't think he'd ever see the Persian artifact again.
"I have to say I was not very hopeful," Fossey said. "When I learned about the theft, I said, 'Well , I guess we've said goodbye to both of them.' "
Fossey made the trip to Alberta to identify the artifact and to help bring it back to Montreal.
"The sheer thrill of being the first one to say, 'Yes, that's our baby.' and to bring the baby back home was just something I'll never forget," Fossey said.
"The fineness, the beauty of the preservation of it, that's why it's so valuable."
Police say they are still looking for a second artifact stolen in October 2011 from the museum, a Roman marble carving of the head of a man, about the same size of the Persian piece. It's worth about $40,000. They are also looking for the thief believed to have stolen both of the items.
Anyone with information can contact police at 1-800-659-4264 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more photos of the artifacts, go to www.sq.gouv.qc.ca.