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ROME, Nov 15 (AFP) - The trial resumes in Rome Wednesday of two Americans accused of conspiring to traffic in looted Italian antiquities for the J Paul Getty museum in Los Angeles, with museums around the world anxiously awaiting the outcome.
The Getty's former antiquities curator Marion True is accused of knowingly acquiring antiquities stolen in Italy, for which art dealer Robert Hecht allegedly acted as an intermediary.
Both deny wrongdoing in the case, which emerged out of an investigation into the activities of former gallery owner Giacomo Medici, who is currently appealing a 10-year jail sentence handed down by a Rome court last year.
Prosecutors say art traffickers used Medici's Swiss warehouse to store artifacts, including priceless examples from the Greek, Etruscan and Roman periods, looted from Italian archaelogical sites.
Nearly 3,000 pieces have been confiscated by the police, as well as thousands of photographs of vases and amphorae still in the ground, indicating they were looted directly from sites.
Prosecutors in Rome believe this could be just the tip of the iceberg.
In a show of good faith, and in a bid to settle a forfeiture order issued in the US at Italy's request, the Getty museum recently returned three out of 42 items sought by Italy.
The Getty has insisted it had never knowingly bought illegally uncovered artefacts and has stood by True in the case, though she resigned last month.
However, the Los Angeles Times reported last month that museum lawyers had determined that 82 items, including more than half the 104 masterpieces in its antiquities collection, had been bought from dealers accused of selling looted artefacts.
The outcome of the trial, which resumes after a four-month recess, is being seen as an important test-case for the art world, particularly as Italian prosecutors have signalled their intention to legally challenge museums worldwide over the means through which they acquired many of their artworks.
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