News24

Van Gogh theft: Tycoon offers reward

2010-08-26 11:32

Cairo - Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris has offered a 1-million Egyptian pound ($175 300) reward for information leading to the recovery of a stolen Van Gogh painting, television reported on Wednesday.

Sawiris, chairman of the leading Arab mobile operator Orascom Telecom, is the first businessman to publicly get involved in the search for the panting, worth an estimated $55m.

The painting, known as "Poppy Flower" according to a statement in Arabic, was stolen on Saturday morning from Cairo's Mahmoud Khalil Museum, home to one of the Middle East's finest collections of 19th- and 20th-century art.

An early investigation of the theft showed "flagrant shortcomings" in security, with only seven out of 43 security cameras working properly.

The culture ministry's head of fine art, Mohsen Shaalan, has been detained along with four other officials for 19 days pending investigation after being accused of "negligence and failing to carry out their employment duties".

Nine other employees were barred from travel.

The museum 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.

Sawiris, the oldest of three billionaire sons of Egyptian entrepreneur Onsi Sawiris, owns just over half of Orascom Telecom and 100% of mobile phone operators Wind Italy and Wind Hellas of Greece through his investment vehicle Weather Investments.