Egypt challenges a UK auctioneer over 200 'stolen' antiquities

Ahram Online, London , Wednesday 1 May 2013

Egypt informs International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) of allegedly stolen artefacts on sale at London's Bonhams auction house

An Egyptian polychrome painted wood sarcophagus fragment  Late Period, circa 664-30 B.C.

Egypt notified the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) on Wednesday that a collection of more than 200 allegedly "stolen" Egyptian antiquities are on auction at London's privately-owned Bonhams.

It appears the Interpol is in contact with relevant authorities in the United Kingdom (UK). The Repatriation of Antiquities Department (RAD) at Egypt's Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) is also following the issue with the Interpol officials.

On the other hand, Bonhams strongly believes the objects on auction have not been stolen from Egypt.

"We are satisfied with the provenance of the Egyptian art on sale,” Julian Roup, Bonhams' director of press and marketing, told Ahram Online.

However, the Egyptian Ambassador to London Ahraf Alkhouly complained to the company, asking it to put on hold the Egyptian artefacts auction.

"I explained to them that Egypt has reservations on the sale of some of the Egyptian items," Alkhouly told Ahram Online.

Alkhouly added that he is still waiting for the RAD of the MSA to send him the documents which claim the items on sale were stolen.

The objects include an Egyptian polychrome painted wood sarcophagus fragment (664-30 B.C); a limestone fragmentary royal stele for King Merenptah (19th Dynasty, 1212-1201 B.C.); a bronze cat (600 B.C) and a bronze seated figure of Neith (Late Period, 664-332 B.C).

"We always take enormous care to ascertain the provenance of all the items we sell," Roup said.

"Bonhams works closely with all the relevant authorities, including the Egyptian Embassy in London with whom we have a very good relationship. Any auctioneer in the UK is committed to contact the British Police's Art and Antiques Unit, the Arts registry, and Interpol to check the provenance of its exhibits," he explained.

"If Interpol believes there is cause for concern about the Egyptian objects, then they will no doubt approach the relevant authorities in the UK with whom we work closely. We have heard nothing from the authorities," Roup said.

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