Author: Dr. Angelika Hellweger 25 September 2023
In a recent revelation, The National has reported that the British Museum acquired an ancient Egyptian artefact from a dealer with a criminal conviction related to antiquities smuggling. This significant revelation has prompted widespread concern, with Rahman Ravelli’s Angelika Hellweger, weighing in on the matter.
The artefact in question, a shabti figurine commonly found in ancient Egyptian tombs, was purchased by the British Museum from Mousa Khouli, also known as Morris Khouli, who operates an auction house in New York. Mr. Khouli's past convictions include buying and smuggling Egyptian antiquities, such as coffins, funerary boats, and limestone figures, into the United States by making false declarations to customs authorities.
In the article Angelika Hellweger expressed her astonishment at the British Museum's acquisition process, particularly its reliance on scans of ownership records provided by an individual with a criminal history of making false statements. She emphasised the inadequacy of relying solely on scans for verification, citing their susceptibility to manipulation. Angelika also raised fundamental questions about the absence of original documents and the need for a more rigorous due diligence process, especially when dealing with individuals with criminal convictions.
Furthermore, Angelika pointed out that the antiquities dealer community, including Mr. Khouli, is relatively small, suggesting that the background of such dealers should have been familiar to those overseeing the acquisition of the shabti. She highlighted the importance of red flags being raised when dealing with individuals like Khouli, whose criminal history is well-documented.
You can read the full article by visiting The National.
Angelika is a specialist in international, high-level economic crime investigations and large-scale commercial disputes. She has widely-recognised expertise in representing corporates and conglomerates in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and United States.