A British Museum tragedy: Serial thief 'has been plundering 2000 precious items for decades'

10:37 03.09.2023 •

Dr Ittai Gradel, an expert in Roman antiquities.

India demanded Britain to return jewelry and historical artifacts stolen from the country and handed over British museums. All of a sudden, London reported that the police were investigating ‘a massive theft of exhibits from the British Museum.’ Maybe the Britain is trying this way to hide those Indians historical values and valuable items that Delhi demands to bring back?

A serial thief has plundered the treasures of the British Museum for decades, it has been revealed, as it comes to light bosses were warned two years ago that precious artifacts were being stolen and sold online, ‘Daily Mail’ reports.

The brazen culprit vandalised valuable gold jewelry and gemstones, melting some down and selling artefacts for hundreds of pounds when in reality they were worth thousands.

The items were flogged by someone who knew and exploited the national epicenter of art and culture, where valuable pieces were often not properly catalogued.

'We believe they sold many of these things for just a few hundred pounds. Some things were simply melted down. In one case a ring was taken but the gem was prised out so wall that was left was the gold,' a police source told ‘The Times’.

'Some of them would have been very, very valuable – tens of thousands of pounds – if it was known they were from the British Museum. But they couldn’t be sold like that.'

Dr Ittai Gradel, an expert in Roman antiquities, contacted the museum after spotting items for sale online that he had seen in museum catalogues in February 2021. One Roman object, valued at £25,000 to £50,000 by dealers, was offered for just £40 according to Mr Gradel.

Bosses admitted that the number of stolen artefacts from the British Museum is 'closer to 2,000' (!!!!) with the total value of missing pieces thought to run into 'millions of pounds', reports have said.

The British Museum announced that items from its collection were found to be 'missing, stolen or damaged' and that a member of staff, since named as curator Peter John Higgs, has been sacked.

The artefacts have not recently been on public display and were kept in a storeroom, mainly used for research and academic work, the museum previously said.

It appears 'increasingly likely' that the museum might never know exactly what has been stolen because of 'gaps in its inventory,' the paper said.

The British Museum declined to comment while the police investigation is on-going.

“As a Chinese media, we formally request the British Museum to return all Chinese cultural relics acquired through improper channels to China free of charge, and to refrain from adopting a resistant, protracted and perfunctory attitude,” writes ‘The Global Times’ in editorial (!) about the situation.

“First of all, a public commitment should be made to the world for the return of the relics and this long overdue work should begin as soon as possible. We also support the claims for the restitution of cultural relics made by other countries that have been looted by Britain, such as India, Nigeria and South Africa. We urge the British government to cooperate in the legal and other procedures to facilitate the process, which will be a test and verification of Britain's sincerity in clearing the colonial stain and making amends for its historical sins.

The vast majority of the British Museum's huge collection of up to 8 million items came from countries other than the UK, and a significant portion of it was acquired through improper channels, even dirty and sinful means. As a result, the British Museum has earned the name of the world's largest "receiver of stolen goods" which exhibits "stolen cultural property." In other words, what the British Museum fails to take good care of, and what it loses and breaks, is in fact mainly cultural property belonging to other countries, so how can this not be heartbreaking.

In the British Museum, there are about 23,000 pieces of cultural relics from China. Among them, about 2,000 pieces are on display for a long term, including the Admonitions of the Instructress to the Court Ladies from the Tang Dynasty, Liao tri-colored luohan statues, ritual bronzes from the Shang and Zhou dynasties, stone buddhist sutra scrolls of the Wei and Jin dynasties, and other extremely valuable national treasures. It's difficult to trace how exactly China lost them to the British Museum, but most Chinese collections were certainly looted or stolen by Britain when it created and later took advantage of China's crisis, or even directly robbed China. As long as Britain cannot prove which collection was acquired legally and honestly, then the mother country of these collections has the right to seek their repatriation.

The UK, which has a bloody, ugly, and shameful colonial history, has always had a strong sense of moral superiority over others, often standing on the moral high ground to dictate to and even interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. We really do not know where their sense of moral superiority comes from.

The United Kingdom, before pointing its finger at others, should first pay back its own historical debts and take the initiative to contact and discuss with the countries that have suffered from its colonial infringement on how to return the historical loot as soon as possible. It should not wait for others to come to its doorsteps, and then use all sorts of excuses, thus leaving the world with a very unflattering impression once again.

Over the years, the British Museum has refused to return the cultural relics mainly on the grounds and basis of the British Museum Act, which was amended by the British Parliament in 1963 and basically prohibits the museum from returning any of its collections. This is equivalent to the UK installing a threshold on its own door and then telling the owner of the relics that it cannot return the artifacts because it cannot get out of the door. It is obviously very hypocritical and ridiculous to use a law set by oneself as an excuse for refusing to obey international morality and fulfill international responsibility. The British Museum is a microcosm of the history of British colonial expansion. Even if the UK has wiped the fingerprints of the looters on these artifacts, it cannot erase the true ownership of these cultural properties,” ‘Global Times’ stresses.


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