Collecting community urged to be vigilant over looted Libyan antiquities


Artefacts looted during the conflict in Libya could appear on the collectors' markets, the UN's cultural body has warned.

Unesco has issued the forewarning to the collecting community following reports of looting in the capital Tripoli.

According to the BBC, more than 90 important items were stolen from the Tripoli Museum between 1988 and 2006.

There have been no reports that the museum has yet been targeted during the troubles.

"Several major sites bear witness to the great technical and artistic achievements of ancestors of the people and constitute a precious legacy," said Unesco's Irina Bokova.

While modern communications ensure that looted items will rarely make it to auction without being spotted, such pieces can often be found homes on the black market.

The Libyan capital Tripoli is home to many treasures

The UN plea is a reminder to collectors to be extra vigilant when considering the purchase of rare antiquities from troubled parts of the world. The items on offer may be bone fide, but the manner of their acquisition may not have been.

Earlier this year several priceless relics, including a statue of King Tutankhamun, were taken from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo during the unrest in the country. Their whereabouts are unknown.

There are sometimes happy endings for criminally-gained pieces.

An 18th century Meissen porcelain dancing figure, seized by the Nazis prior to the second world war and only reunited with the Jewish owner's descendants in 1991, was sold for £126,000 at Bonhams in 2010.

And in March, French police announced that they had retrieved some €18m of the €80m-worth of jewellery stolen from a Harry Winston Boutique in Paris just over two years ago.

Which leaves €62m-worth waiting to be sold to under-informed collectors.


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