Egypt sends former MP to prison for antiquities smuggling

Placeholder while article actions are loading

CAIRO — An Egyptian court on Thursday sentenced a former MP and others to 10 years in prison for smuggling antiquities out of the country as part of a campaign to stop the trade.

Egypt’s state news agency said former MP Alaa Hassanein and 4 others would serve for 10 years. Hassan Rateb, a prominent businessman, and 17 others face five years in prison. All were fined 1 million Egyptian pounds, or about $54,000.

Egypt has dramatically stepped up its efforts in recent years to end the trade in antiquities, which blossomed in the turmoil following a 2011 uprising that overthrew longtime autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak. The suspects were often high-profile figures. In 2020, an actor and brother of the country’s former finance minister, Raouf Boutros-Ghali, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for smuggling antiques.

The state news report did not specify what kinds of antiquities were being smuggled in, but it said that in some cases, the convicts had organized and funded secret digs. Egypt is still rich in undiscovered ancient sites dating back to the time of the pharaohs and Greek and Roman times.

The country has warned foreign museums in recent years that it will not help them set up exhibits on ancient Egyptian antiquities unless they return smuggled items. The Ministry of Antiquities said it has recovered more than 1,000 artifacts and about 22,000 ancient coins since 2016.

In 2019, the ministry displayed a gilded ancient coffin from the 1st century BC, which the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York returned to after US researchers determined it was a looted antiquity.

Leave a Comment