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Egypt vows legal action over King Tut sale.

Summary: Statue was auctioned off for $5.9m in London amid Egyptian outcry

A 3,000-year-old stone bust of Tutankhamun. Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: Egyptian authorities have said they will take legal action after an auction house in London sold a 3,000-year-old statue believed to depict the famed Pharaoh Tutankhamen.

Last week, the Christie's auction house sold the brown quartzite sculpture to an unnamed buyer for $5.9 million amid Egyptian protests.

After a crisis meeting late Monday, Egypt's governmental Antiquity Repatriation Committee led by Minister of Antiquities Khaled Al Enani said it will hire a British law firm to take all legal measures including filing a lawsuit.

The panel said in a statement released early Tuesday it will also ask Egyptian embassies to keep track of the 32 sold Egyptian artefacts, including the King Tut bust, and notify authorities of their presence in any country to help their return home.

"The committee expresses deep dismay over the unprofessional conduct of selling the Egyptian antiquities without proving ownership documents and expresses its extreme astonishment about British authorities' failure to offer the expected backing in this regard," the panel added.

Representatives of the ministries of foreign affairs, justice and the interior as well as prosecution and famous Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass attended the meeting.

The news of the July 4 sale outraged Egyptians, and prompted a flurry of moves by Cairo to block the auction and demanded the return of the King Tut relic believed to have been smuggled out of the country decades ago.

Christie's said that the 28.5cm-long rare statute was from the private Resandro collection, contending it has a history of legal ownership.

According to the auction hall, the bust was acquired from one Heinz Herzer from Munich in 1985 and was earlier owned by Austrian Joseph Messina.

The statue shows the boy king in the shape of ancient Egyptian deity Amun.

In 1983, Egypt issued a law banning selling of ancient artefacts in a move aimed at protecting the country's unrivalled treasures.

In recent years, Egypt has successfully restored several antiquities from different parts of the world, as the country is seeking to use its ancient wealth to revive a vital tourism industry.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Jul 9, 2019
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