Published Tuesday, 10 September 2013
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The men - aged 43, 46 and 59 - are understood to have been detained in the Belfast area on Tuesday morning for conspiracy to burgle, during a major police swoop.
A total of 19 people, including 17 men and two women, are being questioned as part of the crackdown which comes after six thefts took place over a four-month period last year.
Chinese artefacts and rhinoceros horn were stolen from Durham Museum, Gorringes Auction House in East Sussex, Norwich Castle Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
Some of the items have been recovered but many are still outstanding.
Twenty-six police forces from across the UK - including the PSNI - are currently carrying out warrants across Northern Ireland and England.
PSNI officers also searched business premises at Castle Street in Belfast city centre.
Chief Constable Mick Creedon from Association of Chief Police Officers said: "Today's operation follows a long and complex pan-European investigation involving officers from 26 police forces and the Serious Organised Crime Agency.
"Many of the stolen Chinese artefacts are still outstanding and a substantial reward remains on offer for information which leads to the safe return of those priceless items."
Tuesday's operation saw five men - 20, 31, 35, 53 and 54 - and two women - 28 and 54 - arrested in London, while four men - 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.
Police have convicted eight people so far for their roles in the break in. They have been jailed for more than 40 years in total.
Meanwhile dozens of homes have also been raided in the Republic of Ireland.
Gardaí and Criminal Asset Bureau officers visited properties in the Rathkeale and Raheen areas of Limerick and in Newmarket in Cork.
No arrests were made but documents, cash, artefacts and paintings were seized.
As the hunt continues, Chief Constable Creedon said: "The series of burglaries last year had a profound effect on museums and similar institutions and we are committed to bringing all those who were involved in the conspiracy to justice."
© UTV News