State prosecutor Maher Abdel Wahed said on Thursday that the gang had smuggled at least 300 Pharaonic and other artefacts to Europe before Egyptian investigators caught up with them.

While 15 Egyptians and one Lebanese have been arrested, the authorities were looking for 12 others, including two Swiss, two Germans, a Canadian and a Kenyan.

In an investigation that ran for six-months, the authorities learnt that the gang smuggled valuable artefacts from the Pharaonic, Islamic and Coptic Christian periods to Switzerland and France.

Wahed said the Swiss authorities have informed Egypt that they will return some 300 artefacts.