A Strange International Stolen Goods Dispute

The bronze head shown above is a 700-year-old treasure of the Ife culture, part of the Yoruba Kingdom in what is now Nigeria. There are only 20 of these heads known to still exist. In 2017, one was presented to Woolley and Wallis auctioneers in London. The agent for the auction house said it would be worth around £20 million ($24.5 million), if it weren't stolen property.

The Jos Museum in Jos, Nigeria, had this head in their collection until 1987, when a gang of thieves made off with nine of the museum's most prized treasures. Most are still missing. However, this Ife head resurfaced in 2007 when an antiques collector bought it in Belgium at a confiscated art auction held by the Belgian police! The Belgians have no explanation for how that happened. The Ife head disappeared again until it turned up in London ten years later. Woolley and Wallace took the sculpture to British police, who have had custody of the head for five years now.

Nigerian authorities want to know why they can't have their bronze sculpture back. The sticking point seems to be the antiques collector, who insists he bought the head legally, and wants to be paid, at first €5 million, but now will settle for €39,000. Nigeria does not want to pay for its own stolen property. The ball appears to be in Britain's hands, but five years later there is no progress in the case. Read the weird story of the stolen head at BBC News.  -via Strange Company


Art collectors/speculators should be rewarded for returning stolen art, but prosecuted for trying to sell it. Perhaps a benefactor would come forward and payoff the dealer then donate it to the museum.
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