Stolen artefacts returned to Afghanistan

Officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Art and Antiques Unit have attended the British Museum to mark the return of ancient stolen artefacts back to their home in Afghanistan.

In September 2002, two wooden crates entered Heathrow Airport from Peshawar in Pakistan and were intercepted by customs pfficers, who suspected the items – a Buddha sculpture and nine Buddha heads – may contain drugs. When no drugs were found, the items were seized by the Met’s Art and Antiques unit, as the items, which date back to between the fourth and sixth century, were believed to have been stolen from Afghanistan.

Detectives established that the objects had been sent on consignment to a business based in London, which was unaware as to the nature of the items. As there were no other suspects in the UK, the case was closed.

Afghanistan subsequently claimed their pieces but it wasn’t possible to return the items due to conflict in the country.

The items will now be returned to the National Museum of Afghanistan after being displayed for a short time at the British Museum.

DC Sophie Hayes from the Met’s Art and Antiques unit, said: “This has been a very long and complex case but I am delighted that after 17 years, these ancient and precious items are finally being returned to Afghanistan.

“The handover takes place during the Art and Antiques Unit’s 50th year and it is fitting that, whilst celebrating our anniversary, we were also able to attend the event at the British Museum to celebrate Afghanistan’s cultural heritage returning to its rightful home.”

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