Thursday February 22, 2018

A Norwegian Diplomat vehicle held for Artifacts Smuggling in Israel

IAA confirmed the amount of antiquities as 10 kilograms, releasing a picture that “showed a mound of small coins and around a dozen small figurines.”

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Antiquities found in a Norwegian diplomatic vehicle at the Allenby border crossing, May 31, 2016. (Israel Tax Authority). Image source: Timesof Israel.com
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  • Antiquities smuggling is a recurrent problem in Israel
  • Most of the coins recovered were from the Hellenistic and Roman eras
  • The valuables were seized while a senior Norwegian diplomat was in the car

A Norwegian diplomat vehicle carrying a haul of antiquities consisting of coins, sculptures, statuettes, and other artifacts concealed in cardboard boxes was arrested at Allenby Bridge on Monday, June 6.

The valuables were seized while a senior Norwegian diplomat was in the car, travelling between Jerusalem and Jordan. “Following Norway’s permission to the Israeli MFA for the custom authorities to search the vehicle, custom officials stated to have found artifacts in the car. A locally employed driver was detained by Israeli authorities,” reported Jerusalem Post.

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The officials along with the driver were arrested at the scene but were later granted conditional release by the Jerusalem Magistrate Court after posting bail. The Israeli Tax Authority named the driver as Issa Nagam, a resident of Beit Hanina in east Jerusalem.

Israeli Tax Authority officials handed the artifacts over to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) for furthering details on the items. Initially, it was reported that the articles found were of “great value”, with no further information on the origin of the precious figurines.

The Allenby Bridge border crossing seen from the Jordanian side. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
The Allenby Bridge border crossing seen from the Jordanian side. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Antiquities smuggling is in fact a recurrent problem in Israel, where precious items are sold illegally to collectors both inside and outside the region. They are often used to launder money in villages near West Bank and Bar Kochba-era tunnels.

IAA later confirmed the amount of antiquities as 10 kilograms, releasing a picture that “showed a mound of small coins and around a dozen small figurines.”

“Most of the coins were from the Hellenistic and Roman eras. The bulk was minted by Judea’s Hasmonean Kings and by King Herod,” said an IAA spokesperson.

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The Norwegian Embassy in Tel Aviv told the Times of Israel, “Norway takes this incident very seriously.” An internal probe has been launched by the Foreign Embassy to investigate how a diplomat vehicle was used for an illegal activity.

“We are aware that diplomatic vehicles from other missions have been subject to similar incidents. In addition to the handling by Israeli authorities, we have initiated an internal process,” said the Norwegian Embassy.

-by Maariyah Siddiquee, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @MaariyahSid

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Narendra Modi to Inaugurate Abu Dhabi’s First Hindu Temple

As of now, there is only one Hindu temple located in UAE, which is situated in Dubai

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will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community. Wikimedia Commons
will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community. Wikimedia Commons

On his next visit to the United Arab Emirates as part of his West Asia tour starting 9 February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be inaugurating first-ever Hindu temple to be constructed in Abu Dhabi as reported by Economic Times.

During Modi’s visit to the oil-rich nation in 2015, around 20,000 square metres of land was allotted for the construction of a temple in Abu Dhabi’s Al Wathba.

According to the records, UAE is home to as many as 2.6 million Indians, who form around 30 percent of the total population of the country. As of now, there is only one Hindu temple located in UAE, which is situated in Dubai.

Prime Minister Modi visit to UAE will kick start on 10 February. After landing in Abu Dhabi, he will be travelling to Dubai the next day. On a three-day event in Dubai to which India has been invited as the guest country, Modi will be addressing a large gathering of Indians in Dubai Opera on 11 February sixth World Government Summit.

After the Prime Minister’s visit in 2015, India’s relations with the UAE have seen some remarkable advancements. On India’s 68th Republic Day celebration, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyanthe was honoured as the chief guest. Just after that visit of Zayed Al Nahyanthe, UAE initiated a USD 75 billion sovereign funds for India.
Interestingly, UAE remains to be India’s number one trading partner and the current annual trade between the two countries stands at around USD 53 billion.

Following UAE’s visit, Prime Minister Modi will be visiting two other countries in West Asia – Palestine and Oman. The visit to Palestine will be first Indian Prime Minister to the country in seven decades. Last year, Modi had visited Israel, the arch-rival of Palestine and hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a six-day visit to India between 14-19 January.