Friday, July 29, 2011

Mubaraks Allegedly Pocketed Money From Ticket Sales for Travelling Exhibits: Are the Feds Going to Investigate Here?

An Egyptian newspaper has published allegations that the Mubarak family skimmed monies from ticket sales of travelling exhibits of Egyptian antiquities. See

The report also indicates that Zahi Hawass (is he in or out?) has denied the allegations.

One suspects this is just the tip of the iceberg. The other question that should be investigated is whether US archaeologists or institutions that helped facilitate these exhibits also helped facilitate such corrupt practices.

US Government prosecutors have shown how aggressive they can be in breaking up alleged smuggling rings for Egyptian artifacts of limited cultural and artistic value. But, how aggressive are they when it comes to investigating corrupt practices that may have bilked US institutions and tax payers out of millions of dollars? Not very, apparently.


Paul Barford said...

So, Egypt is "corrupt" when the ruler, Hosni Mubarak benefits from antiquities in this way, but England and Wales and Scotland are "not" when Treasure is claimed - and always has been - by the Crown (ie Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II) as her property? I thought you thought the Treasure Act was a good thing. Double standards?

I also find it odd that you think "the Feds" (your US Federal authorities) have, or should have, some kind of jurisdiction over the internal affairs of Egypt, a sovereign state.

Cultural Property Observer said...

I don't understand your first point. I don't see how corrupt practices in Egypt relate to lawful ones in England in Wales. The Egyptians can and should investigate corruption on their end, but so should US authorities. The skimmed funds originated from ticket sales here in the US. That should be sufficient for federal jurisdiction, particularly when the Feds also claim jurisdiction over thefts of archaeological artifacts in places like Egypt.

Paul Barford said...

It's legal, yes, but what would you make of moves by to pass a law making all archaeological artefacts of a certain type found on private land in the USA the personal property of the President? Is that a law the "collector's rights" movement would support or oppose?

I do not understand your second point. If US cinema goers pay money for tickets to see a British film released in America, Europe and Pakistan, does that in any way entitle the FBI to come over to Britain (a sovereign country with investigative bodies of their own) to investigate the internal financial affairs of the production company? Why? What about the Pakistanis?

I think you call for this is a typical example of over-reach by the Americans here. You might reflect how that looks from the outside.

Cultural Property Observer said...

As to the first, the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution would forbid it. As for the Treasure Act, the payment of a fair market award or the return of the find makes it a fair system with which most don't quibble.

As to the second point, it's fraud under US law to claim you are using ticket money to support Egyptian archaeology when you are in fact supporting a lavish lifestyle.

But, of course, this is probably just peanuts when one considers the amounts of US foreign aid lavished on Egyptian archaeology, given the reputation for corruption of the Government that was the recipient.

What is really interesting is that the archaeological establishment seems far more concerned about the smuggling of artifacts of limited cultural and artistic significance than the likelihood that millions have been stolen from archaeology by corrupt officials.

If you and others really care about archaeology, shouldn't this be a major concern?

Cultural Property Observer said...

"Alexander" was having trouble posting and asked me to post this on his behalf. No, I don't think Mr. Barford is directly involved with these archaeologists:

Dear Mr. Tompa:

As an admirer of your column I would like to learn more about how Archaeololgists may have been involved in supporting the corrupt practices of the Mubaraks, and that of other contries. I understand that certain of them truckled to Saddam Hussein during the dark period of his rule in order to get excavation permits, but making money off ticket sales to exhibits is new to me. Will they stop at nothing? Do you think that Mr. Barford may be involved with these archaeologists?

Warm regards,