In a statement, Europol indicated that the "48 religious sculptures and other religious artefacts", recovered in the European operation, must be linked "to a series of 15 robberies carried out in churches in the north of Portugal between 1992 and 2003".

Contacted by the Lusa agency, an official source from the Judiciary Police said that it did not have more information about the operation.

According to Europol, “Operation Pandora VII”, led by the Civil Guard of Spain, took place in 2022, involved 14 countries and led to the arrest of 60 people and the recovery of 1,049 artifacts and works of art.

According to the same organisation, around 130 investigations are still ongoing.

In addition to the 48 works of sacred art recovered in Portugal, the operation also allowed, among others, the recovery of 77 old books in Italy and more than 3,000 old coins in an online sale by the Polish authorities.

“Operation Pandora”, aimed at combating the criminal activity of theft, trafficking and addiction of works of art and cultural goods, was launched in 2016.