Antiquities dealer caught smuggling Egyptian artefacts

January 16th, 2009 - 12:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Cairo, Jan 16 (DPA) A Lebanese antiquities dealer was arrested in Bulgaria after being charged with smuggling stolen ancient Egyptian artefacts, Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) has said.”Ali Abu Taam was accused of smuggling more than 1,000 antiquities and helping Egyptian dealer Tareq al-Sweissi smuggle Egyptian pieces that belonged to different dynasties,” said SCA chief Zahi Hawas.

Hawas added that Abu Taam, who was arrested with help from Interpol, is one of the main figures in al-Sweissi’s 2003 case. Al-Sweissi was caught while smuggling 280 pieces of antiquities.

Some of the pieces were smuggled after being labelled as bottles exported by a well-known company. Others were hidden in boxes of toys and electronic equipment.

An Egyptian criminal court sentenced Abu Taam in absentia in April 2004 to 15 years in jail and a fine worth 50,000 Egyptian pounds (around $9,000).

During the past five years, Egypt has been able to retrieve thousands of antiquities illegally smuggled out of the country.

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