An Edmonton man says he had no idea he was in the possession of an ancient Persian artifact stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts more than two years ago.

The recovered piece, valued at $1.2 million, is an Assyrian bas-relief carving, which dates back to the 5th century BC. The object was stolen from the museum on Sept. 23, 2011.

Quebec provincial police said the artifact was found in an Edmonton home on Jan. 22. Six days later, police arrested 33-year-old Simon Metke and charged him with possession of stolen property over $5,000.

In an exclusive interview with CTV Edmonton, Metke says he purchased the object for $1,400, believing that it was a replica of a Mesopotamian artifact.

He says a friend encouraged him to purchase the artifact, but did not tell him it was stolen or that it was worth more than $1 million.

“I thought maybe bringing it to an antique roadshow sometime would have been kind of fun, or bringing it back to the Middle East and find out if somebody knew what this was or if it was real,” Metke said.

Metke told CTV that police took the object when they raided his home on Jan. 22, and he is unclear why investigators went public with the story now.

He is to appear in court on Mar. 19.

Earlier Thursday, Surete du Quebec spokeswoman Sgt. Joyce Kemp said that the artifact was purchased after it was stolen, for much less than its real value.

“We know that the person purchased it for a price really inferior to what is the real value of the artifact,” she said at a news conference on Thursday.

She would not say how the artifact was purchased, citing the ongoing investigation.

Police say the person suspected of stealing the artifact is still at large.

Another piece of art, described as a marble carving from the Roman Empire, was also stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and is still missing. That artifact was stolen in Oct. 2011, and is worth about $40,000.

With files from CTV Montreal and CTV Edmonton