Egypt's general prosecutor has ordered the arrest of the deputy minister of culture and four security officials for four days, pending further investigations into a stolen Van Gogh painting.
Mohsen Abd El-Shaalan and the members of the internal security forces assigned to the Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo could face charges of "negligence and failing to carry out their employment duties." Nine others, including the director of the museum and culture ministry employees, were banned from traveling outside the country during the course of the investigations.
With an estimated value of more than $50 million, Saturday's theft of the painting "Poppy Flowers" took place in broad daylight after it was cut out of its frame at the museum. An early investigation at the museum showed "flagrant shortcomings" in security, the state's al-Ahram daily reported. Abdel Meguid Mahmud, the prosecutor general, acknowledged that security measures at the museum were "inadequate", branding them little more than "a facade". "There are 43 security cameras but only seven are working. Each painting is protected by an alarm but again, none are working," he said.
The "Poppy Flowers" Van Gogh painting of yellow and red flowers in a vase had been stolen before, in 1977, but was recovered two years later. The museum also houses works assembled by Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil, a politician who died in 1953, including paintings by Gauguin, Monet, Manet and Renoir, as well as the Dutch post-Impressionist master Van Gogh.