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CRIME

Ex-Italian diplomat sentenced for smuggling Egyptian artefacts

A Cairo criminal court sentenced a former honorary Italian consul to 15 years in jail in absentia on Tuesday for smuggling antiquities out of the country, a judicial source said.

Ex-Italian diplomat sentenced for smuggling Egyptian artefacts
Artefacts unearthed in Luxor, Egypt. File photo: Khaled Desouki/AFP

Ladislav Otakar Skakal, Italy's former honorary consul in Luxor, attempted to smuggle 21,855 artefacts from various historical eras in 2017, according to the prosecutor general.

These included over 21,000 golden coins, 151 miniature figurines, five mummy masks, 11 pottery vessels, three ceramic tiles dating to the Islamic period and a wooden sarcophagus.

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Italian police found the sizeable loot in a diplomatic shipping container heading from the port city of Alexandria to Salerno in Italy in 2017.

Skakal's trial, along with other accomplices, began in September last year. Prosecutors found that the antiquities were smuggled with the aid of Raouf Ghali, the brother of former Hosni Mubarak-era finance minister Youssef Ghali.

A verdict is expected next month for Skakal's alleged Egyptian accomplices.

Egypt managed to retrieve the stolen antiquities in cooperation with Italian authorities in 2018. It also requested that Interpol issue a red notice against the disgraced diplomat.

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ROME

‘Bank robber’ rescued in Rome after tunnel collapses

Four people were arrested in Rome after a suspected would-be bank robber was rescued from a tunnel under a road, police said on Friday.

'Bank robber' rescued in Rome after tunnel collapses

An Italian man had to be rescued after becoming trapped in a collapsed tunnel near the Vatican, suspected of being part of a gang burrowing its way to a nearby bank.

Firefighters spent eight hours digging him out from under a road in the west of Rome, before he was finally freed on Thursday evening and taken to hospital.

“Two people from Naples were arrested for resisting a public official and two, from Rome, for damage” to public property, a police spokesman told AFP.

The rescued man, one of the two Romans, remains in hospital, he said without giving an update on his condition.

“We are still investigating, we do not exclude that they are thieves, it is one of the theories,” he said.

For Italian newspapers, however, the motive was clear, with reports noting the tunnel was found near a bank ahead of the August 15th long weekend, when residents traditionally head out of town and much of Rome is left empty.

“The hole gang,” headlined newspapers Repubblica and Corriere della Sera, while La Stampa said: “They dig a tunnel to rob a bank, and one of them is buried underground.”

Other reports referred to the suspected burglar as l’uomo-talpa, or ‘mole man’.

An AFP reporter at the scene on Thursday saw the man brought out alive on a stretcher, after a day-long operation involving dozens of emergency service workers using mechanical diggers.

The tunnel began underneath an empty shop that had recently been rented.

“We all thought that the people there were renovating the place. So we had no suspicions and we did not hear noises either,” a resident, Michele, who lives in the same building told AFP.

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