France returns stolen treasures to Burkina Faso

OUAGADOUGOU (AFP) — France has returned to Burkina Faso a haul of stolen archaeological treasures discovered in a northern French port, the Burkinabe culture minister told AFP Friday.
Filippe Sawadogo said 262 items of “national archaeological and cultural significance” to the landlocked west African nation were returned via the French embassy in Ouagadougou on Wednesday.
He praised the “perspicacity” of French customs officers at the French city of Rouen, on the River Seine, for the seizure in December 2007 of ancient ceramic, stone and bronze materials dating back to 1,300 BC.
Sawadogo said they had been stolen by a French couple, adding that France returning the pieces to Burkina Faso’s national museum was “a sign of the good cooperation which should exist between our countries”.
The trafficking of cultural heritage is not new, with Burkinabe authorities seizing 200 statuettes in September 2004 at Ouagadougou airport as they were about to be transported illegally to Europe.
French customs also intercepted 669 such items from Mali at Paris’ main Charles de Gaulle airport in 2007 along with further treasures from Niger, cultural commissioner Jean Claude Dioma told the Sidwaya newspaper.
“We were lucky, but at the same time, it’s a worrying development, because it shows there are people who are organised and who work this kind of trafficking at a very high level,” said France’s ambassador to Burkina Faso, Francois Goldblatt, in the newspaper’s report.
“I’m not up to speed with the exact legal position, but it is clear that under international conventions and the laws of France, those found guilty of this kind of trafficking face being fined at the least, with prison a possibility in the most serious cases.”

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