Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Egyptian Authorities Investigate Hawass; Why No Investigation by American Authorities?

Al-Masry-Al-Youm, an Egyptian Newspaper, details allegations against former Antiquities Minister Hawass that are being investigated by Egyptian authorities. See

The allegations are summarized as follows:

Abdel Rahman al-Aidy, chairman of the Central Administration of Middle Egypt Antiquities, and Nour Eddin Abd al-Samad, director general of the Department of Archaeological Sites, had submitted notifications to Egypt’s prosecution, accusing Hawass, the primary official responsible for Egypt’s antiquities since 2002, of covering up thefts of archaeological sites, wasting public funds, and signing an agreement with an American association that threatened the national security of Egypt by allowing the association to conduct studies on certain ancient Egyptian kings.

The source also explains Hawass' denials of the allegations:

Hawass denied that the thefts of archaeological warehouses in Zagazig took place during his term, and said that they occurred under former Antiquities Supreme Council Secretary General Abdel Halim Nour Eddin.

He also said that thefts of antiquities or archaeological sites are the responsibility of the antiquities police, inspectors and heads of sectors. He pointed out that the role of the secretary general is regulatory, managerial, and in charge of following-up on the work of the council and reporting any negligence.

He denied signing an agreement with the American Geographical Society (National Geographic). Rather, he claimed that it was protocol whereby Egypt received a cat scan machine worth US $5 million for Egyptian scientists to conduct research on the mummy of Tutankhamun, in return for National Geographic to film the scientific work. At the time, National Geographic was to pay an additional US$60,000 to the treasury of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

While all this is well and good, shouldn't US investigators also look into whether US taxpayer dollars or payments made by US museums for exhibitions and the like were spent to support Egyptian archaeology as intended rather than diverted for personal gain of Mubarak cronies?

USAID has spent $100 million on Luxor alone in partnership with the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute! See These are not insubstantial sums, particularly when there are far more pressing government programs benefiting the world's poor being cut. At the very least given what has come out about corruption in Egypt, the US taxpayer deserves some assurance that these monies were well spent.

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