Dhaka: Nine gold medals and 17 antique silver coins, some belonging to the erstwhile Tripura state, were stolen from the National Museum here and replaced with bronze and steel replicas, a media report said Tuesday.
The authorities are not sure about how many objects were stolen from their store over the years as they have not maintained a proper inventory since 1982.
The authorities say the thieves must be "insiders" as no burglary was reported since 1991 when a gold-silver lion-faced arm of the throne of Dighapatia king was stolen.
"We know for sure some of the museum officials are responsible for this. We are investigating exactly how many pieces were stolen and who did it," Promod Mankin, state minister for cultural affair ministry who visited the museum Monday, told The Daily Star newspaper.
Museum authorities complain of an acute workforce shortage. Preparing an inventory is delayed "as all the responsible people are on leave preparatory to retirement or remain suspended on charge of neglect of duty", the minister said.
"There are at least 55,000 objects in the store, more than double of what we display. So making a proper checklist is a time consuming matter. We could not start the work yet," said Prokash Chandra Das, director general of the Bangladesh National Museum.
"It will take another six months to complete the inventory. May be then we will come to know exactly what and how many are missing," he added.
Staff members say at least one coin from the Tripura dynasty was stolen before 2005 and another in last five years.
The territory of erstwhile princely Tripura state encompassed the present-day Tripura state in India and parts of Bangladesh`s eastern flank.
The museum, set up in 1913 with 17 objects, is today Bangladesh`s premier custodian of precious artefacts.