Zahi Hawass, the former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs has declared that allegations that he is an intermediary for stolen artefacts are totally unfounded and he considers these accusations a serious insult, without proof or documentation.
Hawass told Ahram Online that since 2002, when he took office at the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) as secretary-general, he has worked hard to protect and preserve Egypt’s antiquities and archaeological sites, as well as developing the skills of archaeologists and restorers and improving their living standards.
During his tenure, he continued, 47 state-of-the-art museum storehouses have been built in several archaeological sites and supplied with alarm systems and televised circuit control.
The national project for the documentation of Egypt’s antiquities, which had never been previously recorded, has been implemented as well as the appointment of 8,000 professional guards. Hawass also pointed out that a number of archaeological experts have been allocated to all airports and seaports around Egypt, in order to tighten security measures and prevent any smuggling attempts.
“I also fought in parliament to obtain approval for the new antiquities law, which increases the penalties on antiquities trafficking,” he affirmed.
Hawass denied that the theft at the archaeological warehouses in Zagazig took place during his tenure, stating that “on the contrary this happened during the term of the former SCA’s secretary-general, Abdel Halim Noureddin.”
The thefts of antiquities, Hawass asserted, are the direct responsibility of the Tourism and Antiquities Police, the inspectors and heads of sectors. “The role of the secretary-general is regulatory and managerial. He is in charge of following-up on the work of the council, reporting any negligence and punishing those who are in charge,” he maintained.
Hawass denied signing an agreement with the National Geographic Society, and asserted that it was a protocol whereby Egypt received a CT-scan machine worth $5 million, for Egyptian scientists to conduct research on the mummy of Tutankhamen. In return, he added, the National Geographic Society filmed the scientific work. At the same time, National Geographic paid an additional $60,000 to the treasury of the SCA..