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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.

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