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.
Lot 61 An Egyptian painted limestone relief fragment 1550.1069 B.C
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.
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