WORLD NEWS

Egypt hands heavy prison sentences to former MP for smuggling antiquities

Apr 21, 2022, 2:06 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 3:35 pm
A picture taken on December 17, 2021 shows men resting next to a camel with the Great Pyramid of Kh...
A picture taken on December 17, 2021 shows men resting next to a camel with the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) (L) and Pyramid of Khafre (Chephren) (R) in the background at the Giza pyramids necropolis on the southwestern outskirts of the Egyptian capital Cairo. (Photo by SAFIN HAMED / AFP) (Photo by SAFIN HAMED/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by SAFIN HAMED/AFP via Getty Images)

CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian court sentenced a former member of parliament and others to ten years in prison on Thursday for smuggling antiquities out of the country, as part of a campaign to stop the trade.

Egypt’s state news agency said that former member of parliament Alaa Hassanein and four others would serve 10 years. Hassan Rateb, a prominent businessmen, and 17 others will face five years in prison. All were fined 1 million Egyptian pounds, or $54,000 roughly.

Egypt has drastically stepped up efforts in recent years to stop the trafficking of its antiquities, which flourished in the turmoil following a 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak. Often the suspects have been high-profile figures. In 2020, an actor and brother of the country’s former minister of finance Raouf Boutros-Ghali was sentenced to 30 years for smuggling antiques.

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

The state news report did not specify what kind of antiquities were being smuggled — but it said that in some cases the convicted had organized and funded secret excavations. Egypt is still rich in undiscovered ancient sites dating back to the time of the Pharoahs, and its Greek and Roman era.

In 2019, the ministry displayed a gilded ancient coffin from the 1st Century B.C., which New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art returned after U.S. investigators determined it to be a looted antiquity.

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Egypt hands heavy prison sentences to former MP for smuggling antiquities