que cara mas dura, querer sacar todos esos objetos de Egipto
Egypt could jail Australian dealer for 15 years
26/12/2008 1:00:01 AM
AN AUSTRALIAN antiques dealer has been arrested in Egypt for allegedly trying to smuggle two 2300-year-old animal mummies and religious figurines out of the country.
It is believed Frank Bottaro, 61, who runs BC Galleries in Armadale, Melbourne, was on his way to Thailand on Tuesday when he was picked up at Cairo International Airport.
A security official became suspicious of the figurines that were allegedly wrapped as gifts and placed amid souvenir ceramic pots in his suitcase.
A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that an unidentified 61-year-old was arrested for allegedly smuggling antiquities but had yet to be charged.
She said that, under Egyptian law, he could not be charged until he had appeared before a magistrate, and Egyptian courts were shut for several days during Christmas holidays.
She said officials were providing consular assistance to the man and his family in Cairo and Canberra.
A separate source later confirmed the man's name was Frank Bottaro.
The charge of smuggling antiquities carries a maximum jail term of 15 years.
According to local reports, when security officials opened the suspect suitcase, they allegedly found mummies of a cat and an ibis, both dating back to 300BC. They also allegedly found 19 figurines of the ancient Egyptian gods of Horus and Thoth, wrapped as gifts.
Horus is a falcon-headed god who represented the greatest cosmic powers for ancient Egyptians. Thoth was believed to have given the ancient Egyptians the gift of hieroglyphic writing.
The Egyptian antiquity chief, Zahi Hawass, said the artefacts weighed about 5.5 kilograms.
An unnamed antiquity official at the airport described the seizure as rare because of the number of items involved and their age. Animal mummification was a common practice in ancient Egypt.
Thousands of mummified animals and many animal deity figurines from the ancient Egyptian Late Period, 330BC to 30BC, have been found.
Certain animals, such as ibises, falcons and cats, were thought to be holy, or living representatives of gods.
Asked whether his brother was in trouble in Egypt, the Sydney art dealer Maurizio Bottaro yesterday said he was not sure what was happening.
"I had an SMS this morning that somebody heard something on the news but I don't know," he said. "I thought he was in Thailand, to be honest.
"I was going to make some phone calls myself . . . I don't know if he was in Egypt and tried to bring some presents to someone in Thailand. I just don't know."
Mr Bottaro invited the Herald to phone him back after he made contact with authorities but did not answer calls later.
In 2005 Frank Bottaro was forced to hand over seven Egyptian tomb artefacts to the Australian Federal Police after police said they were priceless 2500-year-old items at the centre of an international smuggling racket.
Mr Bottaro - who was never suspected of any wrongdoing in that case - said at the time the artefacts were his and worth a mere $3000, and he gave them up after his lawyer warned it could cost him thousands of dollars to fight the case.
Police noticed the items, which were placed on Interpol lists, on the BC Galleries website.
Mr Bottaro said at the time he was a scapegoat.
He had sold his lucrative taxidermy business - which had supported his passion for archaeology - in 1993 and went to Egypt to hunt ancient artefacts.
He said in 2002 he was seven when he discovered his first relic at an archaeological dig near his family home: a 2500-year-old Greek oil lamp.
He said he had more than 70 scouts - people who sourced antiques and art - around Middle East, China and New Zealand.
"Most dealers specialise in selected civilisations," he said. "We are interested in any cultures across the ages."
He told stories of running for his life in tribal lands while searching for prized ancient art. He spoke of his early treasure-hunting days, when he apparently made friends with many desert tribes likely to be surrounded by buried artefacts where they were living. He also told of having cheated death several times when unfriendly locals heard about his activities.
Over 10 years he built his business enough to become a successful exporter.
"About 70 per cent of my pieces go overseas," he said in 2002. "I've gone from struggling to make ends meet to being a rich man - which is more fun."
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