CAIRO: Five of the 11 Egyptians held in the theft of a Van Gogh painting saw their jail terms reduced Thursday, while six others have been acquitted, a judicial source said.
Vincent Van Gogh’s "Poppy Flowers," also known as "Vase with Flowers," was stolen in broad daylight on August 21 from Cairo’s Mahmoud Khalil Museum, which houses one of Middle East’s largest collections of European art of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Dutch masterpiece, valued at more than $50 million (€36.1 million), was cut out of its frame and is still missing.
Mohsen Shalaan, the former head of the ministry of culture’s fine arts sector, was sentenced Thursday to one year in prison, and four others to six months, while six other defendants were acquitted after they appealed against earlier sentences. Those facing jail have been convicted of negligence.
Reuters reported that Shalaan was also ordered to perform community service.
At a trial in October, all the 11 people had been sentenced to three years in prison.
The investigation in the case found that of the 47 CCTV cameras, 30 were not working from 2006 and that in most cases a single guard was deployed at the museum.
The brazen daylight theft had highlighted the poor security conditions in many Egyptian museums, which house priceless treasures, including those from the Pharaonic era, like the famous gold mask of Pharaoh Tutankhamun.
The Egyptian government had then promised to initiate a major effort to improve and upgrade surveillance systems.
Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris offered a LE 1 million ($168,000) reward for information leading to the recovery of the painting. –Additional reporting by Reuters