Thursday, 14 July 2011

Further Details of the Brooklyn Antiquities Bust

Although I think the horse figure in one of the pictures is nothing whatsoever to do with Thursday's antiquities bust, the CNN report has some interesting details not found in earlier accounts:
ICE Special Agent Brenton Easter said his team initially was looking for one piece -- a terracotta head uncovered in Iraq in 2000 -- when investigators stumbled upon a multinational network. "This is one of the first times in the U.S. that we've actually dismantled an entire network. What we've done is identified the person in the Middle East who was the conduit, we've identified the broker, we've identified the individual providing false provenance, and we've identified the end-all collector," Easter said [...] In addition to items from Egypt, Easter said investigators also seized artifacts from Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan. "As an investigator here I've seen looting from all different regions, but specifically with this case, we actually have information, and we know for a fact, that they were using metal detectors to actually find and locate some of the pits where they would dig and loot." [...] Easter said the recent political upheaval in the Middle East where ancient artifacts abound accounts for an increase in the illegal trafficking of antiquities. "There has definitely been an escalation in Iraq. There appears to be an escalation in Egypt, but these networks and these rings were pretty well established even prior to what's going on right now in the Middle East," he said.
[Source: Kiran Khalid, 'Global antiquities smuggling ring dismantled, authorities say', CNN July 15, 2011.]

Back in Egypt, the Luxor Times gives some other interesting information. The alleged smuggling ring involved, apart from the three arrested in the US, "a Jordanian nationality holder who lives in the UAE" but also "An Iranian, Palestinian and Iraqi persons". Zahi Hawass is quoted as saying that the antiquities he saw (when? Was the trip to the US a front for his employment as an expert witness in this operation?) in "the confiscated collection includes antiquities from Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Palestine"
“based on the agreement with the security authorities in the U.S. it was agreed that confidentiality of the proceedings as to arrest the international gang members and find out the names of those who helped in the smuggling the antiquities from Egypt and that he only informed Dr.Essam Sharaf, Egyptian Prime Minister on the details of this issue ... Also it is expected within hours to retrieve other Egyptian artefacts at one of the defendants’ home.

Dr. Hawass said that he was supposed to attend an international press conference with the U.S. side to announce the details of this case, however the escape attempt of one of the members of the gang and arresting him shortly precipitated the announcement today about the details of the case, which was followed up and tracked in Egypt, UAE, England and Iraq and other countries to reach the members of this international network specialised in smuggling antiquities to the United States.[...] Zahi Hawass [...] said that U.S. authorities will inform Egypt within days with the names of the involved Egyptians in the smuggling of antiquities and in money laundering.
Does this mean we can expect more arrests? What is the link in ENGLAND (and does it have anything to do with my "Wenneb" shabti story: here and here)? Who had tried to escape, and from whom did he receive a tip-off? Was the plan to lure Ayman Ramadan to the US like the tarantula guy Sven Koppler, or Roxanne Brown in order to arrest him, and he got wind of the plan? Or is that part of the story yet another Hawassan elaboration, to explain why he was not asked to be at the announcement in the US?

At the end of the Luxor Times text there is an interesting snippet of an allegation, a misprint, or something that had slipped below the radar? Can this be documented?
The American sources mentioned that in 2003 the New York gallery has acquired more than 1000 artefacts from all over the world. About 77% of these artefacts were found to be stolen from Middle Eastern countries.
Is this a garbled version of the incantation bowls story? Or something else?

[Source: Luxor Times, 'Two years work led to expose an international network of antiquities smugglers', Friday, 15 July 2011.]

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