Cairo: Security cameras and alarms at the
museum in Cairo from where a Van Gogh painting valued at more
than USD 50 million was stolen had been out of order "for a
long time," an official said on Sunday.
"The cameras had not been working for a long time, and
neither had the alarm system," the security official told AFP,
speaking on condition of anonymity, adding that no image of
the painting was therefore available.
"We don`t exactly know how long they had been out of
order, but it was a long time. The museum officials said they
were looking for spare parts (for the security system) but
hadn`t managed to find them," by the time the theft took
place, he said.
The work identified as Poppy Flowers and valued at
more than USD 50 million, was stolen from the Mahmoud Khalil
museum yesterday, after it was cut out of its frame.
Culture Minister Farouq Hosni last evening announced
that Egyptian police had arrested two Italians at Cairo
airport trying to smuggle the painting out of the country.
But he later backtracked on the claim, publicly
admitting that the authorities were still working to retrieve
the picture and blaming a subordinate for giving "inaccurate"
It was not immediately clear why the Italians were
arrested and whether they had been freed.
Mohsen Shaalan, the official who had said the painting
was in the possession of police at Cairo airport, switched off
his cellphone and could not be reached for comment.
Security officials also refused to comment on Hosni`s
statement. One official described the incident as
"embarrassing and chaotic."
Hosni had earlier said the museum, located in the
middle and upperclass district of Dokki on the Nile and which
also has works by Monet, Renoir and Degas, was visited by only
10 people on Saturday.
Italy`s domestic ANSA news agency, citing what it
called "information gathered at the scene," said the two
Italians were young and that they had visited the museum with
a group of Spanish and Russian tourists.
The painting of the yellow and red flowers in a vase
had been stolen before in 1977, and was returned to the museum
a decade later.