A UK court has fined a British citizen £500 after he admitted having attempted to sell a number of ill-gotten Egyptian antiquities.
Neil Kingsbury, who had previously worked on BBC documentary series about the discovery of the Rosetta Stone and other early archaeological adventures, was arrested after six items were identified in Christie’s London antiquities sale last year.
Kingsbury told Christie’s that he inherited the items from an uncle who had lived in Egypt for some years after serving in World War II.
However, one of the items – a relief fragment of a Nubian prisoner appearing to originate from the Amenhotep III Temple in Luxor’s Thebes – was spotted in Christie’s catalogue of items before the auction sale by Marcel Marée, a curator at the British Museum.
All six items — which are between 3,000 and 4,000 years old — were pulled from the sale a few days before it was due to start.
Christie’s contacted the Metropolitan Police’s Arts and Antiques Unit (MPAA) which arrested Kingsbury and interviewed him before referring him to court.
During a nine-month trial, Kingsbury revealed he had bought the items from a man called Mohamed who owned a series of shops, including one in a five-star hotel complex in Luxor, and brought them to Britain in a suitcase.
Due to his cooperation and confession, Kingsbury was told he would not be sentenced to prison. Beside the £500 fine, he was also ordered to pay £50 as a court fee.
“This case shows how our procedures, our due diligence and the transparent and public nature of our sales combine to make our salesroom highly unattractive to those engaged in the illicit trade,” Christie’s spokesman told Ahram Online, adding that he hoped the incident will send a strong message to those engaged in illicit trade.