In response to a question from the audience at yesterday's event at the Wilson Center, Dr. Monica Hanna stated unequivocally that the Mubarak Regime (her words) was deeply involved in antiquities trafficking. Specifically, Hanna identified the former police chief of Cairo as a major smuggler.
But that is not all. Another speaker from the floor complained that two successive US Ambassadors had offered the Egyptian Government money to help complete an inventory of artifacts in state collections, but this effort was stymied by the Egyptian Government itself. No wonder. Without an inventory, it's far easier for corrupt Egyptian cultural bureaucrats to sell antiquities from "the museum store" without notice. And yet, the same Egyptian cultural bureaucracy has convinced the US Government to bring criminal cases and forfeiture actions to recover Egyptian artifacts from US citizens in the recent past.
When asked if the current military government was also involved in antiquities trafficking, Hanna could only meekly state that it was too soon to tell. But just how different is the current military government from the Mubarak regime, which was also dominated by military men? And, if the differences are as it appears only "skin deep," why should the US Government clamp down on US collectors on behalf of a deeply hypocritical and corrupt Egyptian cultural establishment?
CPO hopes to post a full report of Dr. Hanna's talk in the not too distant future, but in the interim will highlight some of her admissions that should give US Government decision makers and the press pause.