Sunday 22 January 2023

Jordan: Former Archaeological Museum Director Sentenced for Counterfeiting Coins

The media seem to have been relatively quiet about a long-going scandal involving the Jordan Archaeological Museum. This is located in the Citadel of Amman (Jabal Al-Qalaa). It was built in 1951 and presents artefacts from archaeological sites in Jordan, dating from prehistoric times to the 15th century. There is also a coin collection, and this is the subject of a longterm investigation that resulted in the conviction of an unnamed defendant.

At some time before 2015, a French archaeologist brought some students to Jordan and was showing them some of the material -  Ptolemaic Greek silver coins - that they had discovered at the Iraq Al-Amir site in 1993 had been removed from the cases and replaced by forgeries. On reporting this to  the Jordanian Department of Antiquities an investigation was carried out and a commission confirmed in a report issued in December 2015 that 315 Ptolemaic Greek silver coins in the custody of the museum had all been replaced with fake ones except for one. It was later discovered that 73 Byzantine gold coins that had been discovered at another site in Abdoun in 1996 had been replaced by forgeries. After that, a further inventory led to a report by the Public Prosecutor and the Integrity and Anti-Corruption Commission, which showed that the replacement had been carried out on a huge scale. Somehow there had been a replacement of 5972 antique coins in the collection (1249 of gold, 4478 silver, and 245 bronze). 

The investigations concluded that responsible for this situation was the former director of the Jordanian Antiquities Museum at Jabal Al-Qalaa (the Citadel), where the coins were held. He was arrested, tried and convicted of a felony of embezzlement, and a misdemeanour of counterfeiting and falsifying antiquities. For this he was sentenced to five years imprisonment and fined a sum equalling the value of the coins, in addition to trial expenses and any other expenses (the value of the original coins was estimated at $1 million). Al-Ghad News reported that he has just lost his appeal in the Amman Court of Appeals against the sentence (Ex-museum director sentenced to prison for counterfeiting antique coins Jordan News 22 Jan 2023). 

It was found that some of the missing coins from the Jordan Antiquities Museum had been sold outside the country. Notably, "one such artifact is a golden ring, which after further investigation was found to have been taken to Israel and from there to Germany, where it was sold during an auction held in Munich, in December 2018, for 23,000 euros". Note this was after the thefts were discovered. It is not stated where this ring is now.

I am puzzled where the perpetrator found the producer of such a wide range of one-off fake coins and the technique by which the copies were made.

It is rather ironic and embarrassing that this was the location of the issue of the 2012 'Amman Declaration on the Prevention and Response to Theft and Looting of Cultural Objects from Museums and Sites'.

[It also explains the Jordan News' interest in museum thefts elsewhere: " Celtic gold coins-worth millions stolen from German museum"]

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