A UK-based businessman has been arrested on suspicion of looting Egyptian artefacts after he consigned several items into a Christie’s antiquities sale in London.
The six objects, withdrawn just days before
the May 2 sale, are believed to have been stolen from a recently
discovered tomb in Thebes. Experts from Christie's, the British
Museum's Egyptology department, the Egyptian embassy and the Art
Loss Register identified the stolen pieces in an investigation with
Scotland Yard's Art & Antiquities Squad.
Egyptian news organisation Ahram described
the thefts and the investigation as "one of the biggest operations
of its kind since the Egyptian revolution exploded in
The suspect, a man in his early 60s from
north-east London, had told the auction house he inherited the
pieces from his uncle who had served in Egypt during the Second
World War and stayed on for a few years before returning to the UK
in the '50s. They had been catalogued as such in Christie's sale
where estimates ranged from £800-2000.
A statement released by the auction house
said: "Christie's works closely with international authorities and
organisations towards our shared objective of preventing the
illicit trade in improperly exported or stolen works of art.
"On 26 April, Christie's informed the police
that it believed six lots consigned to its antiquities sale had
been recently stolen from Egypt. Christie's also notified the
Egyptian Embassy on the same day and confirmed that it had
withdrawn the suspect lots and would be working with the police to
ensure their speedy return to Egypt.
"We hope that this case - and the consequences for the seller -
will send a strong message to those engaged in the illicit