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EGYPT: Eleven officials sentenced in connection with stolen Van Gogh painting

October 13, 2010 |  7:32 am

VBK-POPPY_FLOWERS_168933eAn Egyptian court has convicted 11 Culture Ministry officials on charges of gross negligence and incompetence and sentenced them to prison in connection with the theft of a Vincent Van Gogh painting from Cairo's Mahmoud Khalil Museum.

The officials, including Deputy Culture Minister Mohsen Shalaan and the museum's director, were each sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison and were released on $1,800 bail each pending appeal.  

The painting, known as "Poppy Flower" and "Vase and Flowers," was stolen in August, causing an international furor concerning the Ministry of Culture's ability to protect the country's artistic treasures. An official investigation showed that only seven out of the museum's 43 surveillance cameras were working at the time of the theft.

During interrogations, Shalaan claimed he reported the museum's security deficiencies to his superiors and that he had asked Culture Minister Farouk Hosni for a budget of $7 million to improve surveillance systems. He said he was only allotted $88,000.

Hosni later testified and presented documents showing a presidential decree approving more than $10 million to upgrade the museum. The painting, valued between $50 million and $55 million, is still missing.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: The stolen Vincent Van Gogh painting. Credit: Associated Press