Valuable items handed to Iraqi authorities

A valuable Iraqi manuscript stolen in 1977 is being handed back to the Iraqi authorities today 14/9 following an investigation by the Met’s Arts and Antiques Unit.

The manuscript dates from 403AH (1013 AD) and is one of the oldest and most important books from the AwQaf library in Mosul. It is by the famous Arab physician Ar-Razi and was stolen from the library in 1977. It came to police attention when a man attempted to sell it to a London auction house. They alerted the Met’s specialist Arts and Antiques Unit in August 2003 and an investigation ensued.

A man was arrested in November 2003 and although there was insufficient evidence to charge, the man chose to disclaim the manuscript. It is unknown where the manuscript was prior to it coming to notice in 2003. The MPS have since been liaising with the Iraqi authorities to organise its return to them. The item has been valued at in excess of £250,000.

A second artefact, an ancient Aramaic incantation bowl believed to have been illegally looted from an unknown area of Iraq and worth approximately £1,000 -£2,000, has also been returned today.

In October 2004 police received intelligence that the bowl was being sold in Grays Mews market nr Bond St following it being taken from an illegal excavation in Iraq. It is believed it was purchased in Jordan before being brought to the UK.

Officers attended and interviewed the dealer but there was insufficient evidence to charge. The dealer opted to disclaim the object and as a result police have been organising its return to the Iraqi authorities.

DS Vernon Rapley, head of the Arts and Antiques Unit, said: “The return of these items today demonstrates the success of our Unit in raising awareness within the London arts market of the need to be aware of stolen artefacts being sold on. We continue to run overt and covert operations to ensure that London is a hard target for criminals to trade in and we are pleased that we have been able to recover and return these important artefacts to the Iraqi authorities.”

The artefacts were received by the Iraqi Ambassador, Dr Salah Al-Shaikhly today following a hand over by Commander Sue Wilkinson.

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