Prosecutors in Egypt have indefinitely adjourned hearing the testimony of the former Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass who is charged with smuggling Egyptian antiquities to the United States and Australia, and of squandering public funds.
Hawass, who was responsible for Egypt’s antiquities from 2002 until March 2011, asked the Public Funds Prosecution to suspend the investigation while he submits documents proving his innocence. It is alleged that he covered up thefts of archaeological sites and wasted public funds. He is also accused of signing an agreement allowing an American association to conduct studies on ancient Egyptian kings which, the prosecutors allege, threatened national security. Hawass, however, denies signing any such agreement. He insists his involvement with the American Geographical Society (National Geographic) was a protocol whereby Egypt received a CAT scan machine worth US$5 million for Egyptian scientists to conduct research on the mummy of Tutankhamun in return for which the National Geographic would film the scientific work.
At the time, National Geographic was to pay an additional US$60,000 to the treasury of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
Sources told the Egypt Independent (3 April 2012) that prosecutors need to form a specialized technical committee to take an inventory of all museums to make sure nothing is missing, and that the hearing would be adjourned indefinitely. Al-Ahram reports (3 April 2012) that Ali El-Hawari, a lawyer from the Public Funds Prosecution Office, has ordered the creation of a committee of experts from the judiciary and in antiquities to study all the documents presented both by Hawass and the regulatory authorities.
See CWA 49 for Special Report : Egypt After Hawass