Skip to main content

A Dealer, Interpol and Sofia Airport

Back in September there was a story that an antiquities dealer, arriving on a flight from Paris, had been arrested at Sofia airport (news.bg September 18 2008). The basis for the arrest was apparently an international arrest warrant requested by the Egyptian authorities in June 2007.

The individual was not named in the report but was said to be a 43 year old Canadian citizen of Lebanese origin.

A report in the Egyptian press now makes things a little clearer (Batoul Helmy, "Interpol arrests antiquities smuggler", Daily News January 15, 2009). It continues:

A notorious antiquities dealer was arrested by the Interpol in Bulgaria after a years-long chase, Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni announced.

According to the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, the smuggler, Ali Abu Ta'am, is Lebanese but resides in Geneva, Switzerland. He owns an antiques exhibition.

Abu Ta'am is also a suspect in the case of Tarek El-Suesy, who was arrested in 2003 for smuggling Egyptian antiquities outside the country.

Abu Ta'am allegedly aided El-Suesy in smuggling 280 Egyptian antiquities outside Egypt. Some of the antiquities were labeled as glass utensils, children's toys and electronic appliances and then smuggled under the name of a well-known export company.

Hawass added that the investigations proved that Abu Ta'am was one of eight suspects in El-Suesy's case.

In April 2004, the Egyptian criminal court sentenced Abu Ta'am to 15 years in prison and a fine of LE 50,000 in absentia.

The report ends on this note:

Hawass was optimistic that Abu Ta'am's arrest will quell any further attempts to smuggle antiquities.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Marble bull's head from the temple of Eshmun

Excavations at the temple of Eshmun in Lebanon recovered a marble bull's head. It is now suggested that it was this head, apparently first published in 1967, that was placed on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (Tom Mashberg, "Met Museum Turns Over Another Relic With Disputed Past to Prosecutors", New York Times August 1, 2017 ). The head is reported to have been handed over to the Manhattan district attorney after a request was received from the Lebanese authorities.

It is suggested that the head may have been looted from an archaeological storage area at Byblos in the 1980s during the Lebanese civil war. Mashberg has rehearsed the recent collecting history:
The owners of the bull’s head, Lynda and William Beierwaltes of Colorado, say they have clear title to the item and have sued Manhattan prosecutors for its return.  The Beierwaltes bought the head from a dealer in London in 1996 for more than $1 million and then sold it to another collector, Michael …

The Toledo skyphos and a Swiss private collection

The Attic red-figured skyphos attributed to the Kleophon painter in the Toledo Museum of Art (inv. 1982.88) is now coming under further scrutiny following the research of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis. The skyphos shows Hephaistos returning to Olympos.

Tsirogiannis has identified what appears to be this skyphos in five photographs in the Medici Dossier. The museum acknowledged that the skyphos had resided in a 'private Swiss collection'. Tsirogiannis suggests that this is probably a reference to Medici.

Enquiries to the museum by Tsirogiannis elicited the information that the skyphos had been acquired from Nicholas Koutoulakis (although that information does not appear on the museum's online catalogue).

The curatorial team at the Toledo Museum of Art will, no doubt, be contacting the Italian authorities to discuss the future residence of the skyphos.

For further discussion of the Toledo Museum of Art on LM see here.

Reference
Tsirogiannis, C. 2017. "Nekyia: Museum ethics an…

Metropolitan Museum of Art hands over Paestan krater

In May 2014 I commented on a Paestan krater acquired by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art after it had been identified by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis in photographic images seized from Giacomo Medici. Tsirogiannis published his full concerns in the Journal of Art Crime in 2014, but it has taken a further three years for the museum to respond.

The krater showing Dionysos in a hand-drawn cart was purchased in 1989 from the Bothmer Purchase Fund (details from the Museum's website, inv. 1989.11.4). The krater surfaced through Sotheby's New York in June 1989.

It is unclear who consigned the krater to Sotheby's New York.

It has now been revealed that the krater has been handed over to the US authorities after a warrant had been issued (Tom Mashberg, "Ancient Vase Seized From Met Museum on Suspicion It Was Looted", New York Times July 31, 2018).

It appears that the museum did make an attempt to resolve the case in December 2016. Mashberg notes:
The Met, for its par…