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FBI investigating sale in US of treasures possibly stolen from British Museum

FBI investigating sale in US of treasures possibly stolen from British Museum
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FBI investigating US eBay sales of treasures suspected of being stolen from British Museum

The FBI is investigating the potential sale of hundreds of items stolen from the British Museum to American buyers, including some sold on eBay, the BBC reported.

The London museum is one of the biggest in the world. But since last year it has been the subject of unwanted worldwide attention after it said that more than 1,000 items from its collection, including jewellery, gems and Greek pottery, had been stolen, were missing, or had been damaged.

The BBC reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is now investigating whether items from the museum were sold to buyers in the United States.

The FBI’s efforts include contacting individuals who bought items on eBay, including a man in New Orleans who bought two gems on the platform, according to the BBC.

The man told the BBC that the FBI had reached out to him for more information. He said he no longer had the items and told the BBC he did not think the authorities had located them yet.

The Telegraph reported last year that some items stolen from the museum were listed on eBay at low prices. Items worth around US$63,000 were listed for as little as US$50, it said.

In its report, the BBC said that FBI had also probably helped in recovering 268 items that were sold to a Washington collector on eBay, which the museum says belong to it. Items may also have been sold to people in other countries, the BBC reported.


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The British Museum did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The museum has accused one of its curators, Peter Higgs, of stealing and damaging artefacts. Higgs was sacked last year after an internal investigation, but has not been arrested or charged. He denies any involvement.

Three buyers said an eBay seller with the username “sultan1966” used the names “Paul Higgins” or “Paul” when they communicated via email.

The buyer in New Orleans said he bought his items from sultan1966, which the BBC appeared to confirm by looking at records and receipts.

An antiquities expert reported suspicion that a museum staff member was stealing from secure vaults back in 2013, according to The Telegraph newspaper, with missing items beginning to turn up on eBay three years later.

Sources told the outlet that the museum had not properly catalogued all eight million items in its collection, which made it easier for the thefts to go undetected.

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