Egyptian ministry officials jailed over Van Gogh theft

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Poppy Flowers/Vase And Flowers by Van Gogh - courtesy Mahmoud Khalil museum
Image caption,
The painting was reportedly cut from its frame

An Egyptian court has found 11 culture ministry employees guilty of negligence, after the theft of a Van Gogh painting from a Cairo museum.

The officials include Deputy Culture Minister Mohsen Shalan, and the museum's director.

They have been sentenced to three years in jail but each given bail of about $1,750 (£1,100), pending an appeal.

The Van Gogh painting was stolen in broad daylight from the Mahmud Khalil museum on 21 August.

The work - known as both "Poppy Flowers" and "Vase and Flowers" - was cut out of its frame.

It is valued at more than $50m (£32m).

Security shortcomings

The investigation found that none of the museum's alarms and only seven of 43 security cameras were working.

In addition, the museum had reduced its security personnel, meaning that often there was only one guard on duty.

During the course of the trial, a number of museum officials said they had known about security problems but they were given no budget to improve things.

Image caption,
The Mahmud Khalil museum is home to one of the Middle East's finest collections of 19th and 20th century art

Mr Shalan, who heads the department of fine arts, said he had asked the culture minister for nearly $7m (£4.4m) to upgrade security systems, including those at the Mahmud Khalil museum.

He said only $88,000 (£56,000) was approved.

Culture Minister Farouk Hosni testified during the trial and dismissed his subordinates' complaints.

The missing work is believed to have been painted by Vincent Van Gogh in 1887, three years before his death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris has offered a $175,000 (£110,000) reward for information leading to the recovery of the painting, but it is still missing.