|Image Credit Al Dostor News|
During a court hearing on Sunday, January 19, the Cairo Criminal Court of Abdin, headed by Counselor Mohamed Ali Mostafa El-Feky, began hearing the first of witness testimony in the trial against Raouf Boutros Ghali and others on various charges related to the smuggling of Egyptian antiquities into Europe. During that hearing, the Egyptian prosecution layed out its investigation into the case into the smuggling of 21,855 Egyptian artefacts which had earlier been seized by Italian authorities.
Holding passports for Italy and San Marino, the defendant, Raouf Boutros Ghali, has been held in custody as a flight risk since his original arrest, February 14, 2019, and was seen held in a caged dock during throughout Sunday's proceedings. While his trial is underway, Egypt's Prosecutor General, Nabil Sadek had previously requested precautionary custody pending the conclusion of his trial for his alleged involvement in the scheme to illegally export Egyptian heritage in contradiction of the country's laws.
In total some 21,660 coins along with 195 artefacts were seized, some of which include 151 miniature figurines made of faience, 11 pottery vessels, 5 mummy masks, some gold-plated, 3 Islamic era ceramic tiles, 2 canopic jar heads, two wooden decorative objects, and a wooden sarcophagus.
Raouf Boutros Ghali is the brother of the former Egyptian Minister of Finance, Youssef Botros Ghaly, whose served in that role under then-President Hosni Mubarak from 2004 to 2011, and the nephew of Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1992 to December 1996 who died in 2016. The Boutros-Ghali family are Coptic Christians with deep roots in Egypt's old aristocracy.
In statements given to the court via legal counsel, the defendant Raouf Boutros Ghali confirmed he would be fighting the charges against him and represented that he had inherited the exported pieces from his grandfather, Boutros Ghali Pasha, the first Coptic Prime Minister from 1908 to 1910. It should be noted that the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) is the institution entrusted with the protection of the Egyptian heritage in accordance with article 8 of the Antiquities Protection Act of Law No. 117 of 1983 which states:
Anyone owns any archaeological object in accordance with the provisions of this Law must notify the Council of such object within six months starting from the beginning of March 2010 provided that such persons are required to preserve such objects until the Council registers it.
Early, on May 25, 2018, Shaaban Abdel Gawad, who heads up Egypt's antiquities repatriation department within the Ministry of Antiquities, confirmed that while the Egyptian authorities had deemed the artefacts to be authentic but the objects did not appear in any of the country's antiquities registries.
On Saturday, the prosecution also underlined its September 17, 2019 demand for the rapid arrest of Italy’s former honorary consul in Luxor, Ladislav Otakar Skakal. Egyptian authorities had requested that Skakal be placed on INTERPOL's Red Notice in connection with his involvement in this case as the ancient objects were discovered inside a diplomatic shipping container, of the type used to transport household goods, when it came through the port of Salerno in May 2017.