Dr Zahi Hawass, once-king of Egyptian archaeology via his position as the (former) Minister of State for Antiquities, may face charges of breaking Egypt’s antiquities law:
General Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud on Monday referred charges of wasting public money and stealing Egyptian antiquities against Zahi Hawass, former minister of state for antiquities to the Public Fund Prosecution office.
Nour El-Din Abdul-Samad, Director of Archeological Sites, had filed the accusations against Hawass, and requested that the objects in question be returned to the Egyptian Museum.
The Public Funds Prosecution office also received other charges accusing Hawass of wasting public money and exposing Egyptian antiquities to stealing in collaboration with former regime members.
Hawass is accused of sealing a deal with the American Geographical Society to display rare Egyptian antiquities in exhibitions across the United States and Australia, violating the law of protecting antiquities.
Hawass admitted in a television talk show that he had a 17 million dollar deal with the American Geographical Society with regard to a Tutankhamun exhibition to raise donations for Suzanne Mubarak’s association, wife of former president Hosni Mubarak. Suzanne Mubarak’s association was a private association not a state body, and as such Hawass was not legally allowed to use his position as a state minister to raise funds for it.
The charges relate to Hawass agreeing to transfer and display 143 objects from the Egyptian Museum to Washington DC in 2003. The antiquities have yet to be returned to the museum.
Beyond the irony of Hawass possibly being charged for sending antiquities away from Egypt (given his long-running crusade to have stolen artefacts repatriated), I’m not sure how much of this is simply political point-scoring. These kinds of exhibitions would have had plenty of value – from education through to inspiring tourism – and it would be sad for Hawass to be convicted for simply spreading the Egypt love around. Things like the money going to the Susan Mubarak association may be more problematic for him though….