Making $55 million the easy way

One would like to think that if thieves were going to swipe a $55 million piece of art, they’d have to work for it.

Apparently not.

The theft of the Van Gogh painting “Poppy Flowers” from an Egyptian museum last weekend was made considerably easier by the fact that only seven of 43 security cameras were working properly.

Cairo’s Mahmoud Khalil Museum, home to one of the Middle East’s finest collections of 19th- and 20th-century art, including paintings by Gauguin, Monet, Manet and Renoir, apparently isn’t staffed by the brightest bulbs, either.

“The painting would have been stolen even if there were a thousand surveillance cameras, because of the negligence of the museum staff,” minister Farouk Hosni told Al-Akhbar newspaper.

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

Nine other employees were barred from travel, as well.

Hosni said the ministry would create a central control room to monitor all museums, supervised by his cabinet, and set up a committee to review surveillance of museums across the country. 

The work has been stolen from the same museum before, also in mysterious circumstances, according to The Mail.

“Thieves took the canvas in 1978, and authorities recovered it two years later at an undisclosed location in Kuwait ,” the paper reported. “Officials never reported whether any thieves were charged or tried or whether a ‘ransom’ was paid for the painting.”

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