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Artifact taken from Montreal museum found in Edmonton; 2nd item still missing

The head of a guard, from a bas-relief Persian artefact dating from the 5th century BC, is shown in a police handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Surete du Quebec

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The head of a guard, from a bas-relief Persian artefact dating from the 5th century BC, is shown in a police handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Surete du Quebec

MONTREAL - An artifact dating from the fifth century BC that was stolen from a Montreal museum more than two years ago has been found in Edmonton, police said Thursday.

The fragment from a Persian bas-relief sculpture was recovered in an apartment on Jan. 22 and returned to Quebec.

The object, which has an estimated value of $1.2 million, was taken from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on Sept. 3, 2011.

A reward was offered several months after the theft.

Provincial police spokeswoman Joyce Kemp said Thursday that whoever bought the artifact after it was stolen paid less than what it was actually worth.

"We know that the person purchased it for a price really inferior to what is the real value of the artifact," she told reporters.

Kemp would not give any details about how it was purchased.

"The investigation is still ongoing (and) it might interfere with the next steps of the investigation," she said

In a statement, police said Simon Metke, a 33-year-old Edmonton man, was arrested on Jan. 29 and has been charged with possession of stolen property over $5,000.

He is to appear in court in Edmonton on March 19.

The recovered artifact is one of two that were stolen from the museum at around the same time.

On Oct. 26, 2011, the marble statuette of a man's head from the first century BC was also pilfered.

Police have said there could be other arrests.

A hefty reward was offered in February 2012 for the return of the two pieces.

The exact amount was not specified by the AXA Art insurance company, but it was described as substantial.

Police and insurance investigators were also helped by the museum's closed-circuit cameras.

The robberies were not made public until several months later in order to protect the police investigation.

The museum's art pieces are protected by security systems that include motion detectors, while guards also patrol the galleries.

Provincial police said the artifact was found with help from the public as well as from the RCMP in Alberta.

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