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Egypt orders trial for Italian ex-honorary consul charged with smuggling artefacts

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CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt has ordered Italy’s former honorary consul to stand trial in absentia over charges of attempting to smuggle thousands of artefacts out of the country, the public prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.

Ladislav Otakar Skakal, Italy’s former honorary consul in Luxor, attempted last year to smuggle 21,855 artefacts from various historical periods in a diplomatic container from Alexandria to the Italian port of Salerno, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

It said Egyptian authorities also found many artefacts at the Italian’s former home in Cairo and inside a safe he rented at a private bank.

Artefacts he allegedly attempted to smuggle went on display at the Egyptian museum in Cairo last year.

It was not immediately possible to contact Skakal. A call to a phone number in Rome listed under his name in an online directory went unanswered.

The public prosecutor also ordered some Egyptians accused of helping Skakal to stand trial. The statement did not name the suspects but said they had been detained.

Egypt has also asked Interpol to issue a red notice against Skakal, the statement added. A red notice requests law enforcement agencies to provisionally arrest a suspect pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.

Antiquities theft flourished in Egypt in the years after the country’s 2011 uprising, with relics stolen from museums, mosques, storage facilities and illegal excavations.

(Reporting by Haitham Ahmed, Writing by Mahmoud Mourad, Editing by Aidan Lewis and Dan Grebler)

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