CAIRO: A notorious antiquities dealer was arrested by the Interpol in Bulgaria after a years-long chase, Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni announced.
According to the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, the smuggler, Ali Abu Ta am, is Lebanese but resides in Geneva, Switzerland. He owns an antiques exhibition.
Abu Ta am is also a suspect in the case of Tarek El-Suesy, who was arrested in 2003 for smuggling Egyptian antiquities outside the country.
Abu Ta am allegedly aided El-Suesy in smuggling 280 Egyptian antiquities outside Egypt. Some of the antiquities were labeled as glass utensils, children s toys and electronic appliances and then smuggled under the name of a well-known export company.
Hawass added that the investigations proved that Abu Ta am was one of eight suspects in El-Suesy s case.
In April 2004, the Egyptian criminal court sentenced Abu Ta am to 15 years in prison and a fine of LE 50,000 in absentia.
The Supreme Council of Antiquities along with the prosecutor general succeeded in returning all the antiquities smuggled by this group, which total around 1,000 artifacts.
The FBI also tipped Hawass off about Abu Ta am and helped return three paintings that were smuggled from Sohag, Egypt.
In 2006 Hawass retrieved the last of the three paintings himself from the United States.
Hawass was optimistic that Abu Ta am s arrest will quell any further attempts to smuggle antiquities.