A report by the Associated Press stated that over 10,000 religious artifacts have been stolen over the past 10 years from churches in Macedonia.
It was previously reported that 800 churches and 53 mosques in the country had items taken from their churches.
Among the items stolen were 23 icons created by Dico Zograf, who is one of Macedonia’s most famous painters. Intelligence officials state that Zograf’s artwork can be sold for tens of thousands of dollars on the black market.
The art thieves generally target churches on the western part of Macedonia where the churches are located in remote villages. Out of the 201 churches and monasteries that are registered as national treasures, two-thirds of them are inadequately guarded without alarms or guards.
Experts believe that most of the illicit trade is organized in Albania, with the artifacts being sold to collectors in Western Europe and Russia.
Source: Associated Press, “Macedonia prey to global racket in holy icon theft,” Yahoo News, January 12, 2014.