One of the seized artifacts – Press photo/Antiquities Ministry
CAIRO – 7 June 2018: Independent MP Ahmed Samih called for tightening control over ports to stop smuggling Egyptian antiquities, explaining that profits from illicit antiquities trade is a funding source for terrorist groups.
Samih of the Parliament's Tourism Commitee added that antiquities trade is carried out by international networks of smugglers, and not by individuals. He warned that the operations carried out by such networks reveal the presence of a contact with human traffickers and terrorist organizations that target the state.
Concerning Egyptian antiquities seized in Italy last March, MP Mohamed al-Akkad submitted an information request to the Minister of Antiquities, Khaled al-Enany, calling for the provision of all details on the incident to the Parliament, in order to for them to be introduced to the public, and to bring the smugglers to justice subsequently.
On March 14, the Italian police notified the Egyptian Embassy in Rome about the seizure of 23,700 artifacts, including 118 Egyptian pieces packed in parcels, according to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid. The artifacts were reportedly seized in Italy’s port of Salerno.
Shaaban Abdel-Gawad, head of the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry’s Repatriation Department said that examination of the seized artifacts' photos sent by the Italian authorities suggested they are authentic antiquities, adding that the two countries cooperate to return the seized pieces to Egypt.
Egypt’s Attorney-General, Nabil Sadek, ordered the Ministry of Antiquities to send experts to Italy to examine the authenticity of the smuggled artifacts.
Sadek demanded a full report on the major breach and issued a judicial permit for the Italian judicial authorities to seize the 118 ancient pieces and update the prosecution in Egypt with all the information and relevant documents available.
Many Egyptian antiquities were smuggled in the aftermath of Egypt's 2011 revolution amid the security vacuum, while others were stolen during the unrest in 2013.
Egypt managed to retrieve over 500 artifacts from abroad in 2016, Abdel Gawad previously stated.
Parliament's Media, Culture and Antiquities Committee prepared a report earlier in 2018 on an amendment to the antiquities protection law proposed by the government to toughen punishment for smuggling antiquities up to a life sentence and a fine up to LE 10 million (about $0.56 million).