Baltic Sea shipwreck plunderers sentenced to prison

Baltic Sea shipwreck plunderers sentenced to prison

The Swedish Court of Appeal has escalated the sentences of three men for looting historic shipwrecks in the Baltic Sea, overturning the initial community service and fine penalties to prison terms.

Various types of glass, porcelain, wooden sculptures, coins, and a 17th century iron cannon are some of the hundreds of items the four men are accused of removing from the bottom of the Baltic Sea from various shipwrecks.

In a pivotal legal decision, the Court of Appeal in Sweden has revised the sentences of four men convicted in 2022 for offences against Sweden's heritage laws. These individuals were found guilty of plundering several wrecks off the coast of √Ėland, challenging the preservation of national heritage.

From 2013 to 2020, the convicted men retrieved a multitude of artefacts from shipwrecks near √Ėland, using some to adorn their homes. Dive logbook entries suggest that their activities may have begun as early as 1987.

A selection of retrieved artefacts found during the search of the house

Originally, the district court had sentenced three of the men to community service and fines for aggravated antiquities offences, with a fourth man convicted of aiding and abetting these crimes. However, upon appeal, the Court of Appeal has imposed prison sentences on the three primary offenders.

Prison Terms 

The prison sentences have been determined as one year and four months, one year and two months, and one year, respectively. The Court of Appeal's decision reflects the gravity of the damage to irreplaceable cultural-historical information and the collective cultural heritage. 

Prosecutor Magnus Ling expressed his satisfaction with the Court of Appeal's judgement in a video interview, highlighting the significance of the decision.

Despite denying the offences, the men admitted to collecting objects from the sea bed, which they believed to be unclaimed finds. The lawyer of one of the imprisoned men, Torgny Palm, expressed shock at the increased sentence, having anticipated a reduction in the Court of Appeal.

Christian Arnbom, representing another convicted man, plans to appeal to the Supreme Court, citing the case's uniqueness in Swedish legal history.

Protection of National Heritage

Under Swedish law, historical artefacts and sites are protected. Objects found without an owner, especially those recovered from the seabed, are deemed state property. Discoverers are required to report such finds to the appropriate authorities. Disturbing, removing, excavating, or damaging an ancient monument without authorisation is illegal, with penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offence.

Sveriges Television (SVT) (the Swedish public service television)
Swedish Coast guard

Press releases from Divers Alert Network (DAN)

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