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British Museum hopes to recover stolen items through eBay records

Stock Image Pixabay


A judge on Tuesday ordered the disclosure of eBay and PayPal records that may contain evidence that a former British Museum employee sold items allegedly stolen from its collection.

The storied museum, one of the UK capital's biggest tourist draws and best known for housing the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon Marbles, revealed last year that some 1,800 artefacts were missing.

It dismissed a staff member suspected of involvement in what it called "an inside job", and alerted police who have interviewed a person but made no arrests.

Around 350 of the items have since been recovered.

At London's High Court, judge Heather Williams ordered the disclosure of the records and said there was "cogent evidence" that the museum's allegations may be correct.

In written evidence to the court, the museum's lawyer Daniel Burgess said the former employee had stolen items such as gems, jewellery, gold, silver, and "intentionally" damaged artefacts by removing gold and silver from them.

It was believed that hundreds of the items were listed for sale on the online auction site eBay, using PayPal to facilitate payment, he said.

The lawyer added that the suspected thief had access to the items and tried to cover their tracks by using fake names, creating false documents, manipulating the museum's records and selling artefacts "at an undervalue".

He said it was believed that the staff member intended to dispute the claims against them.

The museum's director Hartwig Fischer resigned in August 2023 after admitting that the institution did not act "as it should have" on warnings that items had gone missing.

The institution has since announced policy changes to prevent future losses, including updating the museum's whistleblowing code and policy on thefts, as well as tightening up security.