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Prison sentence for aggravated cultural heritage crime at sea

In 2022, three men were sentenced with a fine for looting shipwrecks off Öland that are protected by law as cultural heritage objects. The verdict was appealed, and the Göta Court of Appeal has now announced that the three men will have their sentences increased to imprisonment. A fourth man, who was previously convicted of aiding and abetting the crime, was handed an unchanged suspended sentence and a fine.

Maritime archaeologists from the Museum of Wrecks helped in the investigation by providing expert support and dating of the finds and by serving as trial witnesses. One of them is Jim Hansson, who comments on the verdict:

“With this verdict, we can continue to work to ensure that our fantastic cultural heritage under the surface is left undisturbed. It also feels good considering how much work we and other agencies put in to make sure the public can keep our stories at the bottom of the sea as intact as possible.”

“We’ve worked so hard to combat looting, and to build up collaboration with the Coast Guard, the Maritime Police and the Navy, who are all helping out. So it’s great that we can now continue these efforts.”

Hansson hopes that the verdict will help raise awareness of the importance of protecting ancient relics below the water’s surface. 

“You’ve got to remember that cultural heritage, and all the wrecks and stories, belong to everyone. No one owns them. If you grasp this, it’s easier to understand that if you take something or touch an ancient relic, you are destroying something for many people. We archaeologists then struggle to tell these stories, plus future colleagues and technicians will also need access to the finds.” 


It was during the summer of 2020 when the Coast Guard boarded a ship for an inspection off Öland. During the inspection, several finds were discovered on board that turned out to be salvaged ancient relics. They were confiscated, and the three men on board were reported for committing a cultural heritage crime. During house searches at various addresses, several underwater relics were found which were also seized by the Coast Guard. Among these finds were large quantities of ship components, rigging details, coins and a few cannons. One of the cannons was dated back to 1664.

In a comment on the Göta Court of Appeal website, Judge of Appeal Christer Ganelind stated: “In its assessment of the penal value of the crimes, the court of appeal has taken into account, among other things, that cultural heritage crimes can often lead to damage that cannot be repaired, since valuable cultural history information is destroyed and the crime can be said to be directed against a collective cultural heritage.”

For the media

Are you a journalist and want more information? Please contact Jim Hansson:

Tel: +46 (0)8-519 549 22