An Egyptian court sentenced a former member of parliament and others to ten years in prison on Thursday for smuggling antiquities out of the country.
The former MP, Alaa Hassanein and four others would serve 10 years whiles Hassan Rateb, a prominent businessman, and 17 others will face five years in prison, according to Egypt’s state news agency.
All were fined 1 million Egyptian pounds, ($54,000).
Egypt has drastically stepped-up efforts in recent years to stop the trafficking of its antiquities, which flourished in the turmoil following a 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak.
Often the suspects have been high-profile figures. In 2020, an actor and brother of the country’s former minister of finance Raouf Boutros-Ghali were sentenced to 30 years for the same offence.
The state news report did not specify what kind of antiquities were being smuggled — but it said that in some cases the convicted had organized and funded secret excavations.
Egypt is still rich in undiscovered ancient sites dating back to the time of the Pharaohs, and it’s Greek and Roman era.
The country has in recent years warned foreign museums that it will not help them mount exhibits on ancient Egyptian antiquities unless they return smuggled artifacts.
The Antiquities Ministry said it has retrieved more than 1,000 artifacts and around 22,000 ancient coins since 2016.