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THESSALONIKI, Greece — A Swiss court has ordered the confiscation of a very rare ancient silver coin that was allegedly illegally excavated in northern Greece and sold at auction in Switzerland, Greek and Swiss officials say.

The lawyer representing Greece in the case said Thursday that the ruling in October opens the way for the early 5th century B.C. coin’s return to Greece. The debt-crippled country’s rich cultural heritage has long suffered depredations from antiquities smugglers supplying a lucrative international market.

The coin was treated in the Swiss court ruling as a product of criminal activity that was illegally exported from our country and was then illegally offered (for sale) abroad,” Ilias Bisias told The Associated Press.

Greek authorities were officially notified of the ruling this week.

Swiss prosecutors said the coin has been confiscated while they await a legally binding verdict on the circumstances of its discovery from Greece, which regards all its antiquities as state property. Read more.

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