CAIRO: The Giza Criminal Court referred world-renowned archaeologist Zahi Hawaas to the general prosecution on accusations of corruption Tuesday, in the same trial session in which the court sentenced three Germans, in absentia, and six Egyptians to five years in prison for stealing two cartouche samples that were chipped off a chamber in the Great Pyramid at Giza last year by three German researchers, Youm7 reported.
In addition to the prison sentence, the nine were fined 5,000 EGP ($720) each over charges of graft and complicity in the seizure of the cartouche samples.
Hawass, who was appointed by Egypt’s former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq as Antiquities Minister, denounced the accusations and denied any relation with the Germans, reported Youm7.
“I was the antiquities minister from Jan. 31, 2011 to July 17, 2011 and the defendants admitted, in video clips aired on social networking sites, they took the cartouche samples in July 2013; two years after I left,” Hawaas was quoted as saying by Youm7 Tuesday.
During a trip to Egypt in April 2013, Dominque Goerlitz and Stephan Erdmann, two German amateur archeologists, had a third colleague film them scraping off pieces of the Great Pyramid.
The video, which aired on their website as a trailer of a documentary called “The Cheops Project,” showed them carving off the cartouche samples from the walls of the burial chamber of the Great Pyramid. It drew the attention of officials at the Antiquities Ministry, which filed a legal notice against them and called on German authorities to retrieve the cartouches, which the researchers had taken with them for analysis in an effort to prove that the Great Pyramids are 15,000 years older than currently believed.
In December 2013, the two researchers said they hoped the antiquities minister and the Egyptian people accept their apology and added they were ready to pay any compensation.
In September, they voluntarily handed over the two cartouches to Egypt’s embassy in Germany from where the artifacts were sent back to Egypt.
This is not the first time such accusations have been leveled at Hawaas, although past investigations have cleared him of charges.