April 16, 2014
This case intrigues me for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, the level of the fine is tiny – considering the crime involved & the value of the artefacts, it counts somewhat lower than a slap on the wrist in the overall scheme of things.
Secondly, the auction house (In this case Christies, although in my past experience, none of the big auction houses have a particularly good reputation when it comes to looted artefacts) takes the moral high ground, making a point about how their due diligence is responsible for bringing about this case. Now, unless I’m misunderstanding the article completely (or the article is incorrect), the sequence of events is rather different to this.
Firstly, Christies lists the looted artefacts. Then, the true origin of the artefacts is spotted by Marcel Marée, a curator at the British Museum, who goes on to alert Christies of this. Finally, Christies contacts the Metropolitan Police’s Arts and Antiques Unit. I see nothing here that really makes me confident in Christies due diligence – the only reason the items didn’t end up at auction was because they happened to be spotted by someone who was entirely independent of the Auction House, who then took their own effort to alert them.
The fact also needs to be noted that the items were smuggled from Egypt in a suitcase on a flight – more needs to be done by countries to protect the egress of looted artefacts through their borders, helping to stop the trade by making it much more difficult for international buyers.
Briton fined £500 by UK court for attempted sale of smuggled Egypt antiquities
Amer Sultan in London
Tuesday 15 Apr 2014
A UK court has fined a British citizen £500 after he admitted having attempted to sell a number of ill-gotten Egyptian antiquities.
Neil Kingsbury, who had previously worked on BBC documentary series about the discovery of the Rosetta Stone and other early archaeological adventures, was arrested after six items were identified in Christie’s London antiquities sale last year.
Kingsbury told Christie’s that he inherited the items from an uncle who had lived in Egypt for some years after serving in World War II.
However, one of the items – a relief fragment of a Nubian prisoner appearing to originate from the Amenhotep III Temple in Luxor’s Thebes – was spotted in Christie’s catalogue of items before the auction sale by Marcel Marée, a curator at the British Museum.
All six items — which are between 3,000 and 4,000 years old — were pulled from the sale a few days before it was due to start.
Christie’s contacted the Metropolitan Police’s Arts and Antiques Unit (MPAA) which arrested Kingsbury and interviewed him before referring him to court.
During a nine-month trial, Kingsbury revealed he had bought the items from a man called Mohamed who owned a series of shops, including one in a five-star hotel complex in Luxor, and brought them to Britain in a suitcase.
Due to his cooperation and confession, Kingsbury was told he would not be sentenced to prison. Beside the £500 fine, he was also ordered to pay £50 as a court fee.
“This case shows how our procedures, our due diligence and the transparent and public nature of our sales combine to make our salesroom highly unattractive to those engaged in the illicit trade,” Christie’s spokesman told Ahram Online, adding that he hoped the incident will send a strong message to those engaged in illicit trade.
- Provenance, forged antiquities, auction houses & the Art Loss Register : September 10, 2013
- Egypt receives stolen artefacts returned from UK : February 21, 2012
- Are some more of the artefacts looted by Giacomo Medici up for sale? : November 16, 2010
- Museum in Britain returns 454 Egyptian artefacts : May 1, 2009
- Property of the former king of Greece : January 23, 2007
- ICOM “Red List” of Egyptian antiquities at risk of looting : August 16, 2012
- Your chance to buy a (fairly convincing) copy of the Parthenon Frieze : October 8, 2012
- Operation Syenite will clamp down on looted Afghan artefact trade : October 21, 2008