Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Return artifacts!

Artefacts heist: the crime scene

Bangladesh wants return of artifacts loaned to France

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh wants a consignment of ancient artifacts on loan to France for an upcoming exhibition to be returned after two 1,500 year-old statues of the Hindu God Vishnu were stolen while awaiting shipment from Dhaka airport.

"The Guimet Museum (in Paris) would be informed, regretfully, that it would not be possible to go ahead with holding the exhibition of the items as planned," a statement from the office of the head of the interim government said on Tuesday.

One consignment of items had already been successfully sent to France when the theft occurred on Saturday as a second shipment was being loaded on a Paris-bound flight.

A government spokesman said the French exhibition would have to be cancelled and the artifacts already in Paris returned to Bangladesh.

The authorities have ordered the remaining items at Dhaka airport to be returned to their collections.

The initial decision to ship the rare items abroad had prompted opposition from art lovers and conservators who expressed concerns the artifacts might go missing in transit.

Police have arrested 15 individuals in connection with the thefts.

(Reporting by Nizam Ahmed, Editing by Matthew Jones)

Bangladesh cancels French museum show after theft of rare artefacts

DHAKA (AFP) — Bangladesh cancelled plans to send rare artefacts to Paris for a museum exhibition next year after two ancient statues of a Hindu deity were stolen en route to France.

The 1,500-year-old rare terracotta statues of the Hindu god Vishnu disappeared from Zia International Airport in Dhaka on Saturday just hours before they were to be flown to the French capital.

The cabinet decided at a special meeting Tuesday to cancel the exhibition in light of the apparent theft, a government statement said.

"The Guiment Museum would be informed regretfully that it would not be possible to go ahead with holding the exhibition of the items as planned," it said.

The statues were among 188 rare cultural items being sent to the Guimet Museum in the French capital for a major international exhibition on Bangladesh's history and culture.

The first consignment of 42 items was sent to Paris on December 1.

Police also launched a nationwide hunt and sought help from Interpol to retrieve the stolen relics after detaining 15 people in connection with the case, he added.

The rare statues represent a deity known as the preserver of the universe. They were among the items selected from five state-run museums over opposition by some local art curators after an agreement between the French embassy and the government's cultural affairs ministry.

Missing statues: Bangladesh seeks Interpol probe

Haroon Habib

DHAKA: The Bangladesh police have requested Interpol to enquire into the two stolen rare terracotta statues of Hindu God Vishnu as the authorities ordered transfer of 143 invaluable artefacts to the national museum from the Dhaka airport where they were taken for airlifting to France.

Interpol was already contacted about the stolen statues, said a top police official as a massive hunt continued for the last three days to recover the rare cultural items. The statues were found missing from the airport's high-security zone on Saturday as they were about to be airlifted to Paris.

An Air France aircraft was waiting in the airport to transport the artefacts through the Homebound Courier Services which trucked 145 relics in 13 cartons to the airport to be put on display at the Guimet Museum in the French capital early next year. The artefacts were part of 188 rare cultural items being sent for an exhibition on Bangladesh history and culture. There was a major national protest that the artefacts might not be returned in original.

In the face of persistent protest by senior citizens and art lovers and a legal battle, the Bangladesh authorities earlier sent 42 artefacts to Paris for the exhibition. The second consignment of 147 artefacts was on their way after the Supreme Court cleared the legal roadblocks.

The Bangladesh National Museum authorities said that some unidentified thieves stole the two statues from the airport early Saturday from the custody of French officials.

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