By Libya Herald reporters.
Tripoli, 2 September 2015:
A British court has ordered a classical Greek statue stolen from the ruins of Cyrene . . .[restrict]to be seized from smugglers and returned to Libya.
The marble statue of a woman is just over a metre high. In 2013, it was intercepted by UK Customs officials who doubted documentation that claimed it was from Turkey and worth some €72,000. Experts from the British Museum examined the sculpture and decided it was from the third or fourth centuries BC and that it had come from Cyrene. Its real value on the thriving black market in stolen antiquities was nearer €2 million.
A Jordanian national, Riad Al-Qassas claimed that the statue belonged to him and produced evidence from a Dubai businessman Hassan Fazeli that his family had had it in their collection since 1977.
The London magistrate’s court yesterday decided that both these claims were false. District Judge John Zani ruled that the sculpture was owned by “the state of Libya” and should be seized. The UK Customs said it would now set about returning the statue to its “rightful owners”.
Qassas was ordered to pay €68,000 in costs.
Ever since the Revolution the theft of historic artefacts appears to have been growing. Two years ago the Department of Antiquities and UNESCO warned that the country’s archaeological treasures were at increasing risk.
While museums have frequently been plundered, not least in the Qaddafi era, the problem with carvings and other objects dug up by thieves, is that there has been no previous record of their existence. It is thought that the British Museum was able to identify the statue of the woman from Cyrene, in part by the local stone from which it had been worked.
In the face of the regular plunder of artefacts, the authorities score only a few victories. In 2012 the head of Flavia Domitilla, a daughter of the emperor Vespasian was seized by police in Italy and returned to Libya. It had been stolen from Sabratha museum in 1990. [/restrict]