Bangladesh cancels French museum show after theft of rare artefacts

DHAKA (AFP) — Bangladesh cancelled plans to send rare artefacts to Paris for a museum exhibition next year after two ancient statues of a Hindu deity were stolen en route to France.

The 1,500-year-old rare terracotta statues of the Hindu god Vishnu disappeared from Zia International Airport in Dhaka on Saturday just hours before they were to be flown to the French capital.

The cabinet decided at a special meeting Tuesday to cancel the exhibition in light of the apparent theft, a government statement said.

“The Guiment Museum would be informed regretfully that it would not be possible to go ahead with holding the exhibition of the items as planned,” it said.

The statues were among 188 rare cultural items being sent to the Guimet Museum in the French capital for a major international exhibition on Bangladesh’s history and culture.

The first consignment of 42 items was sent to Paris on December 1.

Police also launched a nationwide hunt and sought help from Interpol to retrieve the stolen relics after detaining 15 people in connection with the case, he added.

The rare statues represent a deity known as the preserver of the universe. They were among the items selected from five state-run museums over opposition by some local art curators after an agreement between the French embassy and the government’s cultural affairs ministry.