The American University in Cairo’s stolen artifacts are Islamic and 145 pieces have been stolen, officials said. “AUC is deeply disturbed by what appears to have been the theft of antiquities in their custody,” Rehab Saad from AUC communications office told Al- Ahram Online in a statement, adding that the university is cooperating fully with the judicial investigation, as well as conducting an internal inquiry of its own. She put the number of stolen relics at 140, out of around 1,000.
“There are two investigations ongoing, one by the university itself and one by the authorities,” she told AFP. Zahi Hawass, Egyptian cabinet minister of antiquities, has said on Tuesday April 5 that 145 artifacts have been stolen from a storage facility at AUC and that they were mostly Islamic, according to Reuters.
Hawass added in his statement that the thefts took place between March 15 and March 17, saying that after an inventory, 145 artifacts and 50 replicas were found to be missing. News first broke out of the stolen artifacts three weeks ago when The Independent learned of their disappearance. Administrators were unable to say how the artifacts were stolen, who stole them, why the university had artifacts to begin with and why they were not on display.
President Lisa Anderson maintains that the administration still does not have answers to these questions. “That is actually part of our investigation,” she said.
Anderson confirmed that she came into office without prior knowledge about the existence of the artifacts. The court case that was meant to take place last Wednesday April 6 has been postponed until today due to conflicting testimonials, according to Amr Mahmoud, a lawyer defending one of the suspects.
Six AUC employees, two security officers and four other workers are being detained as suspects. Two employees, who signed a confession, claim they were told they were signing a witness report and that they are being framed. Mahmoud added that AUC has been asked by the court to prove ownership of the artifacts.
Hawass said in his Reuters statement that the artifacts were the result of excavation work carried out by the university in the El Fustat area in the 1946 and lead by Egyptologists and American archaeologist George Scanlon.
AUC retained the right to keep these artifacts because the excavation fell under Egyptian law number 215 of 1951, which allowed those who found artifacts to retain a share of the findings.
That article was only cancelled in the year 1983 and replaced by law number 117.
However, in a previous interview with The Independent, Ali El-Araby, executive director of supply chain management and business support, said the artifacts were found and acquired by the university in the early 1990s. “Because there is (an) ongoing investigation with the public authority and we have an ongoing investigation internally, we are not going to comment on anything,” said Anderson.
“It’s not fair to the people who are accused, it’s not fair to the people who may be accused, the people who may be accused and didn’t do anything and so forth, so we are not going to comment,” she added.
“We expect to have our own investigation finished in about 10 days, and when we do, we will make the results of that public.”