May 31, 2006

Turkish curator charged over theft

Posted at 12:51 pm in Similar cases

A few weeks ago, the case was highlighted in the Turkish press of how few visitors came to see the Croesus treasury, returned by the Metropolitan Museum in 1985.
It now appears that the artefact on display may have been switched & the museum’s curator has been arrested in relation to this. It is unfortunate that after the return of a piece to its rightful location, it then makes the news again but for entirely wrong reasons.

The Times

Entertainment news
The Times
May 30, 2006
Curator held on Croesus’s stolen riches
From Suna Erdem in Istanbul

TURKISH police have arrested a museum director and eight others on suspicion of stealing and forging at least two of King Croesus’s treasures.

The 2,500-year-old gold and silver artefacts had been repatriated after a lengthy legal battle with the Metropolitan Museum in New York more than a decade ago. Kazim Akbiyikoglu, director of the museum at Usak in western Turkey, who played a role in the return of the treasures, is suspected of involvement in the theft.

Kayhan Kavas, the Governor of Usak, received an anonymous letter five months ago, alleging that a golden-winged seahorse brooch had been stolen from the collection and replaced with a forgery. The item is from the treasure of Croesus, who lived in the 6th century BC.

An inquiry found that a coin and possibly other pieces had also gone, as well as the intricate 14-gram (½oz) seahorse. The theft is an embarrassment for Turkey, which long campaigned for the return of “the Lydian hoard”. In its efforts to reclaim hundreds of archaeological finds sold or spirited away from its shores — including the British Museum’s Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world — Turkey asserted that it was able to do as good a job of protecting its heritage as anyone.

Atilla Koç, the Culture Minister, said: “You can secure the outside of the museum as much as you want, but no tool has yet been invented to secure the people on the inside.”

The treasures came to Turkey amid much publicity in 1993, when the Metropolitan Museum agreed to return 363 gold and silver coins, jewellery and household items after a six-year legal battle. The small museum in Usak was awarded the right to display the treasures, originally taken from a nearby village in the 1960s.

Omer Erbil, a journalist who first exposed the theft in the Milliyet newspaper, said that Mr Akbiyikoglu was the defendant in at least three court cases on charges from complicity to smuggle artefacts to gambling on museum premises. “He also obstructed past attempts to count and inspect the Croesus treasures,” Mr Erbil said.

Mr Akbiyikoglu, who denies the allegations, said that he had been worried about the museum’s lack of security. “I fought for ten years to get these artefacts here. The villagers told me that all those who originally found the treasure died. They said Croesus’s curse would hit me. They were right.”


  • Croesus, king of Lydia (part of modern Turkey), lived 626-546 BC. Attacked the Persians, led by Cyrus, in 547 BC and lost his power
    Acquired legendary wealth by invading settlements in Asia Minor
  • Described by Plutarch as “decked out with everything in the way of precious stones, dyed raiment, and wrought gold that men deem remarkable, or extravagant, or enviable, in order that he might present a most august and gorgeous spectacle”
  • Mr Burns, the tycoon in The Simpsons, lives near Croesus Avenue
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