Egypt's Deputy Culture Minister and Ten Others Sentenced to Three Years After Van Gogh Theft

Egypt's Deputy Culture Minister and Ten Others Sentenced to Three Years After Van Gogh Theft
Eleven Mahmoud Khalil Museum officials named as suspects in the theft of a Vincent van Gogh painting from the Cairo institution this August — including Egyptian deputy culture minister Mohsen Shaalan and the museum's director, Reem Bahir – have been sentenced to three years in jail, convicted of negligence for apparent security blunders that allowed the 1887 Dutch still life to be taken in broad daylight. None of the officials, however, have been charged outright with committing the theft of the artwork, which remains missing.

An investigation by the Egyptian government showed that at the time "Poppy Flowers" — which is valued at more than $50 million — was cut from its frame, many of the security alarms were turned off and only seven of the 43 surveillance cameras were functioning, while a reduced numbers of guards patrolled the museum. Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmud said each painting in the museum, which also houses works by Monet and Renoir, had an alarm, but that none of them worked, Channel News Asia reports.

The hunt for the missing painting continues, while border and airport officials are said to frantically screen travelers for the work, the disappearance of which has become a source of embarrassment for the Egyptian art establishment. Meanwhile, the country's antiquities director, Zahi Hawass, has vowed to improve security and create  a centralized monitoring group supervised by the nation’s cabinet.