UK Authorities Return Smuggled Greek Statue of Persephone to Libya – Al Marsad

The Libyan Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that the Libyan Embassy in the United Kingdom received the statue of the Greek goddess Persephone, which was seized by British authorities in 2011 at Heathrow airport.

Peter Higgs, curator at the British Museum, and Hannah Boulton, with Libyan Embassy charge d’affaires Mohamed Elkoni viewing the statue at the Libyan embassy in London.

(LIBYA, 10 May 2021) – The Libyan Foreign Ministry said the handover of the smuggled statue was conducted in a ceremony that included the Libyan Acting chargé d’affaires Mohamed Elkoni and the Head of Greek and Roman section at the British Museum, Peter Higgs.

The ancient statue of the Greek goddess Persephone.

“The process of restoring the statue went through many legal, political and artistic stages,” said the statement.

According to an article published today by The Guardian, “The well-preserved marble statue, dating from the second century BC and probably depicting Persephone, would have been fixed to a tomb in a cemetery in the ancient Libyan city of Cyrene.”

“She has snake bracelets carved into her wrists and is holding a small doll, making it, the museum said, “one of the rarest of the Cyrenaican funerary statues”, according to the article.

This “exceptionally rare” statue of the the ancient Greek goddesses Persephone was looted from the ancient Libyan city of Shahat, or Cyrene as it was known in ancient Greek times, and which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982.

Jordanian Riad al Qassas attempted to import the statue in 2011 during the height of the Libyan conflict, by claiming it had been in his family since 1977. He further claimed that the statue originated in Turkey, dated to only the 17th century, and was worth an estimated $110,000 (£72,000). However, according to a report by the British Daily Mail, the 1,800-year-old statue was actually worth about £1.5million.

District Judge John Zani told the Westminster Magistrates Court in September 2015: “I condemn the statue as forfeit to the Crown and I reject any representation made that it would be disproportionate to do so.”

The Guardia article quoted Hartwig Fischer, the director of the British Museum, who said: “An important part of the museum’s work on cultural heritage involves our close partnership with law enforcement agencies concerned with illicit trafficking. This case is another good example of the benefits of all parties working together to combat looting and protect cultural heritage”



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