Egypt and Christie’s international auction house are at war over the controversial sale of a Tutankhamun artefact. Picture: Reuters/Peter Nicholls

Johannesburg – Egypt and Christie’s international auction house, based in London, are at war over the controversial sale of a 3 000-year-old Tutankhamun artefact that was recently sold for $6 million despite fierce opposition from Cairo.

Following an urgent meeting, Egypt’s National Committee for Antiquities Repatriation (NCAR) requested international police agency Interpol to track down the artefact which was sold to an unknown buyer in London in early July, Arab News reported on Tuesday.

Less than a week after the sale, NCAR requested that Interpol issue a circular to trace the artefact, alleging missing paperwork.

“The committee expresses its deep discontent at the unprofessional behaviour of the sale of Egyptian antiquities without providing the ownership documents and the evidence that proves its legal export from Egypt,” NCAR said in a statement.

NCAR’s committee also called on Britain to prohibit the export of the sold artifact until the Egyptian authorities were shown the documents, warning that the issue could negatively impact relations between the two countries, adding that there were currently 18 British archaeological missions working in Egypt.

The Egyptians have taken their fight one step further by hiring a British law company to file a civil lawsuit, with no further information provided.

Christie’s countered that this was the first time Egypt has expressed such concern over an item whose existence has been “well-known and exhibited publicly” for many years.

The auction house has published a chronology of how the relic changed hands between European art dealers over the past 50 years and told AFP that it would “not sell any work where there isn’t clear title of ownership.”

African News Agency (ANA)