Farouk Hosni interrogated over stolen Van Gogh painting

Egypt's Culture Minister Farouk Hosni says he was questioned by prosecutors for three hours late Sunday over last week's theft of van Gogh's Poppy Flowers from the Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo. The minister told reporters today he volunteered for the interrogation to dismiss accusations of negligence.

The prosecutor general ordered the detention of Deputy Culture Minister Mohsen Shalaan and four of the museum's security guards on suspicion of negligence and professional delinquency.

During the questioning, Hosni said he told prosecutors that he had delegated financial and administrative responsibilities to the heads of the various functional sectors and departments at his ministry. He also said that each sector or department has an independent budget under the control of the Central Auditing Agency that is not subject to the control of the Ministry of Culture.

Hosni said that each sector head has the administrative and financial authority to take the necessary actions according to the sector's needs. He went on to say that, accordingly, the Mahmoud Khalil Museum is subject to the control and supervision of Shalaan, the head of the Fine Arts Sector, and that the museum had a separate budget from which all the necessary safety and surveillance provisions could have been financed.

Following the interrogation, Hosni told the press that he had gone to the prosecution to defend himself against allegations made by Shaalan against him rather than to issue accusations. Hosni said he had given the attorney general documents that prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, all options were available to Shaalan to prevent the theft.

He also assured the public that all steps were being taken to enhance security in other museums such as Mahmoud Mukhtar and Mahmoud Said and that a budget of LE 7 million was being used for this purpose.

A budget of LE 16 million had been provided by the Cultural Development Fund for the restoration and development of the Mahmoud Khalil Museum, according to Hosni.

For his part, Shaalan told prosecutors yesterday that the minister was well aware of the poor security situation at the museum and that the Hosni had ignored a request made by a private company to install security equipment.

No charges have been filed.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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