CAIRO: An Egyptian court convicted 11 officials from the Culture Ministry, including the deputy minister, of gross negligence and incompetence in the theft of a Vincent Van Gogh painting that embarrassed the government.
The defendants received sentences of three years in prison and will have to post a bond of LE 10,000 to stay out of prison until the appeal.
The "Poppy Flower," valued at $50 million was stolen in broad daylight from Cairo’s Mahmoud Khalil Museum. Subsequent investigations revealed that no alarms and only seven of 43 security cameras were working.
In addition to the poor security, thieves took advantage of the moment when museum guards were praying, to slice the canvas out of its frame with box cutters.
Prior to the trial, Deputy Minister Mohsen Shaalan said that LE 16 million were needed to upgrade security systems at the Mahmoud Khalil Museum, but only got LE 300,000
The Mahmoud Khalil Museum’s director, Reem Baheer, said Hosni knew about the dysfunctional cameras and alarm system but said there was no budget for upgrading them.
Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, himself, gave a voluntary testimony to the prosecutor and dismissed his subordinates’ accusations.
He told prosecutors he had delegated full responsibility for the museum to Shaalan and had presented documents that showed a presidential decree approving just over $10 million to renovate it.
Authorities have not made public any information about progress in the search for the painting or the thieves. –With additional reporting by Daily News Egypt