Wednesday, February 6, 2008

US Army Pilot, Egypt, and a Museum Theft

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has issued a Press Release, "U.S. arrests Army pilot for dealing in stolen Egyptian antiquities" (February 6, 2008).

It announces "the arrest of Edward George Johnson, an active U.S. Army helicopter pilot, on charges relating to his sale of stolen Egyptian antiquities". His role is given:
Johnson, 44, a Chief Warrant Officer with the United States Army whose duties include piloting and commanding attack and scout helicopters, was deployed to Cairo from February to October of 2002.
The objects, derived from excavations, are reported to have been stolen from a museum:
In late September 2002, approximately 370 pre-dynastic artifacts were stolen from the Ma'adi Museum near Cairo, Egypt. The artifacts, dating to 3000 B.C. and earlier, were originally discovered during an excavation in Egypt in the 1920s and 1930s.
The statement goes on:
In January 2003, Johnson contacted an art dealer in Texas and offered to sell the dealer a collection of Egyptian antiquities. Johnson told the art dealer that his grandfather had acquired the antiquities when he worked in Egypt in the 1930s and 1940s, and that the antiquities had remained in the family ever since. Based on Johnson's representations regarding the antiquities' provenance, the art dealer paid approximately $20,000 to Johnson for approximately eighty pieces. The art dealer later consigned pieces from that collection to galleries and collectors in New York, London, Zurich and Montreal.
But if 370 pieces were stolen, and Johnson handled eighty, what has happened to the other 290?

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