CAIRO: The Administrative Prosecution referred an antiquities ministry official and three security personnel to trial over charges of theft and smuggling of a 3,600 year-old limestone statue from antiquities storerooms at Egypt’s archaeological site of Memphis, Youm7 reported Saturday.
The referral came after Ana Tavares, Co- director of the U.S. archeological mission in Mit Rahina, better known as Memphis, has filed a lawsuit against the area antiquities inspector over accusation of “stealing a limestone statue” dating back to the Middle Kingdom and replacing it with a replica before it was smuggled outside Egypt.
The artifact in question represents a seated double statue of an ancient Egyptian couple. The statue, alongside other four artifacts, has been unearthed by the U.S. mission in 2011 before they were handed over for the inspector to store them later at the same year.
However, the disappearance of the double statue was revealed after a curator in the British Museum in London told Nagwan Bahaa Fayez, a member of the U.S. mission who was visiting the museum to display photos for the team’s discoveries in 2011, that he saw the statue with a Belgian antiquity collector.
The Administrative Prosecution formed a committee to inspect the U.S. mission’s storehouse in Memphis. The committee confirmed the statue has been replaced by a replica. Meanwhile, the Criminal Investigative Unit at the Egyptian Museum has confirmed that the statue has been stolen and smuggled outside Egypt.
In December 2015, Egypt has reclaimed three Islamic lanterns that were discovered a year earlier by a London-based Egyptian archaeologist during an attempt to sell them to an antique collector. In April, 2014, Egypt intercepted Jewish antiquities being smuggled to Belgium.
A large number of artifacts were stolen from Mallawi museum in Upper Egypt’s governorate of Minya in the aftermath of the dispersal of the sit-ins of the Muslim Brotherhood in Rabaa al-Adaweya and Nahda Square August 14, 2013.