CAIRO: The Dokki Misdemeanor Court on Tuesday adjourned the Van Gogh theft trial to Oct. 12.
The court listened to the testimonies of the head of financial and administrative affairs, Olfat Al-Gindi, and tourism police Brigadier Ahmed Abdel Zaher, head of the museums’ investigation department.
Abdel Zaher testified to his findings during the investigation of the theft of the $50-million-plus “Poppy Flowers” painting.
He said that the investigations found that Mohsen Shaalan failed to install new cameras, a new alarm system and increase the number of security guards, despite his knowledge of the deteriorating security situation of the museum.
He added that the museum’s security guards didn’t perform their duties and follow the necessary procedures to protect the precious artwork in the museum. He described the state of the museum employees and officials as “indifferent.”
Al-Gindi stated in her testimony that she is the one responsible for approving the budgets for the ministry, under the supervision of a financial controller.
The ministerial council, she continued, issued a direct decree authorizing LE 16 million from the cultural development fund to develop the Mahmoud Khalil Museum on April 4, 2009.
According to Al-Gindi, the Arab Contractors (a prominent group of construction companies in the Middle East and Africa) were assigned to execute the project. Officials in the company and the director of the engineering administration, Mahmoud Bassiouni, were the ones responsible for executing the project, she added.
Samir Sabri, lawyer representing Shaalan described Al-Gindi’s statement as “dishonest” and “contradictive.”
“We presented correspondents between her, Shaalan and Farouk Abdel Salam [director of the ministry of culture’s office] to the court today [Tuesday] proving that she knew the deteriorating situation of the museum and ignored it,” Sabri told Daily News Egypt.
He stressed that Shaalan pointed out the deteriorating security situation in the museum and the necessity of its development in official documents and made “powerful” statements to Al-Gindi, such as “the situation is critical, “I will refer you to investigation” and “please provide necessary financial resources.”
However, Sabri didn’t demand that Al-Gindi be officially charged with negligence saying “that would be a long process.” He wanted to focus on getting Shaalan released on bail during the trial, but the court denied Sabri’s request and ordered that Shaalan and five other defendants stay in custody.
Shaalan and 10 other museum officials and employees were charged with severe negligence and harming state property. The prosecution is calling for the maximum punishment, which is three years in prison.
The “Poppy Flowers” painting was stolen from Mahmoud Khalil museum in broad daylight on Aug. 21, shedding light on the poor security measures of the museum and leaving the ministry red faced.