NINETEEN people have today been arrested across the UK as part of a operation in connection with a series of high-value raids on museum and auction houses.
Part of the investigation centres on the theft of Chinese artefacts and a cup made from rhino horn which were stolen from the Oriental Museum in Durham.
Seventeen men and two women are currently in custody following dawn raids in England and Northern Ireland.
Hundreds of officers from 26 police forces and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) are involved in the operation and searches are ongoing at various locations.
Five men, aged 20, 31, 35, 53 and 54, and two women, aged 28 and 54, were arrested in London.
Four men, aged 24, 41, 44 and 56, were arrested in Cambridgeshire.
Two men, aged 28 and 46, were arrested in Essex.
A 60-year-old man was arrested in Sussex, a 32-year-old man was arrested in the West Midlands and a 67-year-old man was arrested in Nottingham.
Three men have been arrested in Northern Ireland.
All of those arrested are being held on suspicion of conspiracy to burgle apart from one woman who was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and assisting an offender.
The investigation is in connection with six crimes over a four-month period at museums and auction houses across England.
All involve the theft of Chinese artefacts and rhinoceros horn, with the others taken from Gorringes Auction House in East Sussex and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
Police much of the property was subsequently recovered, several high-value items are still missing.