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British Museum

British Museum Sues Former Curator Over Alleged Theft of Artifacts

London, March 26, 2024, The Europe Today: The British Museum has taken legal action against its former curator, Peter Higgs, accusing him of pilfering hundreds of priceless artifacts from its esteemed collections and subsequently offering them for sale online. This lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, marks a significant escalation in the aftermath of a scandal that has tarnished the reputation of one of the world’s most renowned cultural institutions.

Higgs, who was terminated from his position in July of last year, came under intense scrutiny after the museum uncovered the disappearance of over 1,800 artifacts, including gold jewelry and semi-precious stones spanning from the 15th century B.C. to the 19th century A.D. The revelation sent shockwaves through the museum and beyond, prompting a thorough investigation into the extent of the theft and the circumstances surrounding it.

The fallout from the scandal has been profound, with the museum’s director resigning amid criticism of his handling of the situation. In legal proceedings against Higgs, lawyers representing the museum have alleged that he systematically abused his position of trust to siphon off ancient gems and other valuable pieces from the museum’s storerooms over the course of a decade.

Daniel Burgess, a lawyer representing the museum, emphasized the cultural and historical significance of the stolen items, underscoring the gravity of the alleged offenses. Burgess further asserted that Higgs had attempted to conceal his illicit activities by resorting to various deceptive tactics, including the use of fake identities, falsified documents, and manipulation of the museum’s records.

In a decisive move, High Court judge Heather Williams has ordered Higgs to account for any items currently in his possession within a four-week timeframe. Additionally, she has mandated the disclosure of Higgs’ eBay and PayPal records, signaling a concerted effort to trace the flow of the stolen artifacts and recover as many of them as possible.

While the museum has managed to reclaim 356 of the missing items to date, the legal battle is far from over. Higgs, who was reportedly absent from Tuesday’s hearing due to health reasons, has vehemently denied the allegations leveled against him and intends to contest the museum’s claims in court. Notably, he has not been formally charged with any criminal offenses, although a separate police investigation into his activities remains ongoing.

The unfolding saga underscores the challenges faced by institutions tasked with safeguarding the world’s cultural heritage and serves as a stark reminder of the importance of robust oversight and accountability measures in preserving these invaluable treasures for future generations. As the legal proceedings continue to unfold, the global art community watches closely, eager to see justice served and the stolen artifacts restored to their rightful place within the hallowed halls of the British Museum.