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Britain’s Egyptian antiquities investigation: Main suspect bailed

British police will bring the suspect back to questioning in the summer but won't reveal nationality

Ahram Online, London, Friday 10 May 2013
Lot 58 An Egyptian Red Granite Relief Fragment 1550-1069 B.C.
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British police have released a man who was arrested on 3 May on suspicion of looting Egyptian antiquities on bail.

The man is due to return to the police station in North-east London in early August for further questioning, the police said.

The man was arrested last Friday by the Police” s Art and Antiques Unit officers “on suspicion of handling stolen goods, tax and fraud offences”, a police spokeswoman told Ahram Online.

The spokeswoman, however, declined to confirm the suspect's nationality, only revealing he is a UK-based man in his early sixties.

The arrest was made after the international arts auction house, Christie's, reported that it had identified some antiquities which were almost certainly stolen from Egypt recently.

A well-informed source told Ahram Online that the AAU investigators “are trying to identify how the stolen antiquities left Egypt and how the seller managed to possess them."

Meanwhile, Christie's expects this case will show that there should not be tolerance with this kind of illegitimate trade.

”We hope that this case - and the consequences - will send a strong message to those engaged in the illicit trade," Christie's Director of Communications Matthew Paton told Ahram Online.

Paton also praised the British Museum for "its crucial role in identifying the stolen antiquities."

He added his company will hold the stolen antiquities till it returns it back to its owner [Egypt] after the legal settlement of the case.

The British discovery of stolen Egyptian artefacts is the biggest operations of its kind since the start of the Egyptian revolution in 2011.

One of the stolen objects is a recent find from Amenhotep III in Western Thebes. Made of Egyptian red granite, the relief fragment depicts a Nubian prisoner, facing right, with short hair and wearing heavy hooped earrings and a collar necklace (1550 - 1069 BC).

Another is an Egyptian painted limestone relief fragment depicting a male figure with his head facing left. Experts say it is very likely to have originated from a recently-rediscovered and excavated tomb, again in Thebes.

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