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Prosecutors said the ring had been operating for 23 years. They added: "These items, many of them of great scientific, religious, sentimental, political and economic value, were created specifically with intent to defraud." Gil Kleiman, a police spokesman, added: "This was an attempt to change the history of the Jewish and Christian people."
Israeli police yesterday charged four antiquities collectors and dealers on 17 counts of forging some of the most treasured biblical artefacts to have surfaced in recent years.
They included a limestone ossuary box said to have held the bones of James, the brother of Jesus, supposedly the oldest physical link to the New Testament; a tiny ivory pomegranate bought by the Israel Museum for $550,000 (£287,000) as the only known relic of King Solomon's Temple; and a stone tablet, from the ninth century BC, inscribed in ancient Hebrew with instructions by King Joash for maintaining the Temple.