Arrests in Egypt over art theft

Deputy minister and four others may face "negligence" charge over Van Gogh painting.

    Investigation showed that security measures at the museum were a "facade"[EPA]

    With an estimated value of more than $50m, Saturday's theft of the painting "Poppy Flowers" took place in broad daylight after it was cut out of its frame at the museum.

    'Flagrant shortcomings'

    Faruq Hosni, Egypt's culture minister, said the police were "on alert at the borders and the airports" to try to recover the painting.

    "The search is ongoing. We still haven't found the painting," he told AFP news agency.

    Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Cairo, said the the interior ministry has notified Interpol, the international police organisation, of the theft.

    "They are afraid that the painting could be taken abroad and sold there," he said.

    An early investigation at the museum showed "flagrant shortcomings" in security, the state's al-Ahram daily reported.

    Abdel Meguid Mahmud, the prosecutor general, acknowledged that security measures at the museum were "inadequate", branding them little more than "a facade".

    "There are 43 security cameras but only seven are working. Each painting is protected by an alarm but again, none are working," he said.

    Hosni, the culture minister said he "did not imagine that it was possible to steal a painting from the Mahmoud Khalil museum".

    "The museum would have been closed if it had been known the warning system was not working," he told al-Ahram daily.

    Security in musuems

    Hours after the theft on Saturday, the culture minister announced that the painting had been recovered but he later backtracked, blaming a subordinate for having passed on "inaccurate" information.

    Zahi Hawass, Egypt's antiquities chief, has been ordered to co-ordinate with the security services to have alarm systems checked at museums throughout Egypt, newspapers said.

    The "Poppy Flowers" Van Gogh painting of yellow and red flowers in a vase had been stolen before, in 1977, but was recovered two years later.

    The museum houses works assembled by Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil, a politician who died in 1953, including paintings by Gauguin, Monet, Manet and Renoir, as well as the Dutch post-Impressionist master Van Gogh.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    We Are Still Here: A Story from Native Alaska

    We Are Still Here: A Story from Native Alaska

    From Qatar to Alaska, a personal journey exploring what it means to belong when your culture is endangered.