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Egyptian embassy in Madrid recovers stolen antiquities

February 17, 2014 at 11:15 pm

The Egyptian foreign ministry has announced that the Egyptian embassy in Madrid has recovered a number of priceless antiquities which were smuggled out of Egypt in 1999 by an international gang.

Egypt’s ambassador in the Spanish capital, Ayman Zainaldin, said that he had learned in September 2010 that the police in Barcelona had seized eight of the pieces in the possession of a specialist dealer. His staff approached the Spanish government claiming Egypt’s right to have the items back. Mr. Zainaldin went to Barcelona to inspect the items while Embassy staff coordinated with the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo for experts to go to Spain to examine them and prepare a formal report on their authenticity.

In a statement, the ambassador said: “An examination of the pieces, which are made of limestone, showed that they are original Pharaonic items from the tomb of Eimb Hur, one of the most important officials of the 6th Dynasty, and they are inscribed in hieroglyphics with the name and titles of the tomb’s owner. The pieces were originally discovered in the Kom El-Khamsin zone in the ancient necropolis, or burial ground, of Saqqara near the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, located 25 kilometers south of modern-day Cairo. The items are likely to have been smuggled from Egypt in 1999.”

Arrangements to recover the items and return them to Egypt were made following a series of legal and diplomatic steps with the judicial and executive authorities in Spain, based on UNESCO’s 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, as well as the United Nations Convention against Corruption. The Egyptian embassy in Madrid received a letter from the Spanish government on Saturday, March 10, conveying details of it’s agreement to hand over the items and asking for a date to be set aside for that purpose.

Ambassador Zaialdin praised the cooperation shown by the Spanish during the discussions and Madrid’s desire to follow the proper legal process to protect Egyptian rights. He confirmed that Spain’s positive response embodies the friendly relations between the two countries.