Van Gogh theft trial postponed

The Dokki misdemeanor court has postponed the trial of Deputy Culture Minister Mohsen Shalaan and ten other officials implicated in the theft of a van Gogh painting from a Cairo Museum to 28 September.

The Attorney General had referred Shalaan and ten other officials and workers at Mahmoud Khalil Museum for a criminal trial on 6 September on charges of negligence leading to the waste of state funds.

Judicial sources said the court session was delayed on the request of the defendants' defense team who wish to summon more witnesses.

From behind bars, Shalaan defended himself repeatedly telling reporters, "I am Farouk Hosni's scapegoat," referring to the Minister of Culture.

He went to say, "I served the Ministry and had previously been responsible for the return of stolen paintings from the Opera House and the Culture Minister knows that." He said the Minister had taken all credit for the return of the stolen paintings.

"I told the Minister about the poor condition of the museum and I have the documents that prove that."

Shalaan said the two witnesses in the case, the Culture Minister's Office Director Farouk Abd al-Salam and Chairman of Financial and Administrative Affairs Olfat al-Gindy, knew he was innocent but that they helped the Minister mislead the public.

The van Gogh painting–known as Poppy Flowers, with an estimated value of US$55 million–was stolen last month from the Mahmoud Khalil Museum in the Cairo district of Dokki.

Police inspections following the theft revealed that the museum was fitted with 43 surveillance cameras, of which only seven were found to be functioning. The museum's alarm systems were all faulty.

Among the officials referred for criminal trial are Mahmoud Bassiouni, head of the engineering department of the fine arts sector, and several other security officials.


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