British Museum director steps down over stolen items controversy

The British Museum
The British Museum Copyright Tim Ireland / AP
By Jonny Walfisz
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Hartwig Fischer released a statement announcing his resignation.

The director of the British Museum has stepped down amid controversy over stolen items from the prestigious institution. 

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Hartwig Fischer has released a statement explaining that his resignation is in response to the way he handled the thefts of thousands of items including gold coins, silver necklaces and pottery since 2013. 

"It is evident that the British Museum did not respond as comprehensively as it should have in response to the warnings in 2021, and to the problem that has now fully emerged," Fischer's statement read. 

The responsibility for that failure must ultimately rest with the director.

Fischer's statement also addressed his comments to antiques dealer Ittai Gradel who alerted the museum to the stolen items in 2021. Prior to his resignation, Fischer had commented that the museum had investigated Gradel's claims and that "items were all accounted for." 

"I also misjudged the remarks I made earlier this week about Dr. Gradel. I wish to express my sincere regret and withdraw those remarks," today's statement read. 

Fischer will officially step down from his role once the British Museum's board have established an interim leadership arrangement. 

"Over the last seven years, I have been privileged to work with some of the most talented and dedicated public servants. The British Museum is an amazing institution, and it has been the honour of my life to lead it," Fischer signed off.

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