Egypt jails ex- Italian diplomat for smuggling antiquities

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A Cairo criminal court sentenced a former honorary Italian consul to 15 years in jail in absentia on Tuesday for smuggling antiquities out of the country, a judicial source said.

Ladislav Otakar Skakal, Italy’s former honorary consul in Luxor, attempted to smuggle 21,855 artefacts from various historical eras in 2017, according to the prosecutor general.

These included over 21,000 golden coins, 151 miniature figurines, five mummy masks, 11 pottery vessels, three ceramic tiles dating to the Islamic period and a wooden sarcophagus.

Italian police found the sizeable loot in a diplomatic shipping container heading from the port city of Alexandria to Salerno in Italy in 2017.

Skakal’s trial, along with other accomplices, began in September last year.

Prosecutors found that the antiquities were smuggled with the aid of Raouf Ghali, the brother of former Hosni Mubarak-era finance minister Youssef Ghali.

A verdict is expected next month for Skakal’s alleged Egyptian accomplices.

Egypt managed to retrieve the stolen antiquities in cooperation with Italian authorities in 2018.

It also requested that Interpol issue a red notice against the disgraced diplomat.

Last year, a stolen golden coffin of a Pharaonic priest was unveiled in Cairo after authorities managed to retrieve it from New York.

Antiquities smuggling had thrived in the tumult that followed the 2011 revolution that toppled Mubarak.

In recent years, Egypt has sought to promote its archaeological heritage in a bid to revive its vital tourism sector, which has taken a battering from political turmoil after the revolution.

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