Is it a coincidence that the names Aboutaam and Phoenix Ancient Art are linked to so many dubious transactions in antiquities?

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Ancient alabaster stele goes home to Yemen after criminal investigation

An ICE investigation of Phoenix Ancient Art and owners, Hicham and Ali Aboutaam, found that they were allegedly trafficking in illegally obtained art and antiquities, both violations of the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Property and the Cultural Property Implementation Act. The Aboutaam brothers, Lebanese nationals with Canadian citizenship, are major suppliers of museum- quality antiquities from their galleries in New York, Switzerland and Lebanon. In May 2003, Aboutaam’s attempted to sell, via Sotheby’s auction house a piece known as the South Arabian Alabaster Stele for approximately $20,000 to $30,000. Sotheby’s authenticated the stele but declined to auction this artifact. ICE’s attaché in Rome assisted and obtained proof from Yemen authorities that the stele was stolen. It was forfeited to the U.S. government in December 2003 and eventually returned to Yemen.

Egyptian up-date
Around 200 ancient objects were handed over by Swiss officials to Egyptian representatives in Geneva in November 2003. The items were seized at Geneva Freeport at the end of August 2003 following a request from Egyptian authorities and included statues and fragments of ancient Egyptian gods Ptah and Sekhmet, and of the ancient Greek goddess Aphrodite. In October the Egyptians announced that they had broken a smuggling ring and arrested 15 Egyptians (including high-ranking police and government officials) and one Lebanese citizen (12 others, including two Swiss, two Germans, a Canadian and a Kenyan were still sought). Among the names read to the Cairo court were: Tariq al-Suwaysi, politician and businessman, and the alleged mastermind of the ring, dealer Ali Aboutaam of Phoenix Ancient Art, and the Farags (see also below, ‘the Aboutaams’).
In March 2004, Egypt retrieved two inscribed limestone reliefs from Phoenix Ancient Art, which had been discovered in 1994 at Akhmim (see: ‘The Aboutaams’ below and ‘In The News’, CWC, Issue 10).

The Cleveland Museum of Art’s “Apollo Sauroktonos” has captured attention around the world, not only for its beauty, but for the questions it raises about when it’s proper for a museum to buy an ancient work of art without a complete provenance, or ownership history.

Dr. Hawass Calls for Return of Stolen Artifact

In a press conference held today in Supreme Council of Antiquities ‘s premises (SCA), Dr. Zahi Hawass secretary general of the SCA asserted that May 15 was the final dead line given to St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM) to return Ka-nefer-nefer mask stolen and smuggled out of Egypt sometimes in late 1950’s.

More about the Aboutaams ‘illustrious’ ways of dealing:

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