Egypt’s Public Prosecution has ordered the detainment of three people pending investigation for attempting to loot a 10-ton colossus depicting pharaonic era king Ramses II after they sneaked into the southern quarry area in Upper Egypt governorate of Aswan to illegally excavate for antiquities.
The trio were caught red-handed two days earlier by the provincial security forces while trying to lift the heavy statue and excavate other artefacts in the district, the prosecution said in an official statement on Tuesday.
Manual digging tools, heavy equipment and a forklift were found in their possession.
Following examination of the site, the prosecution found traces of drilling on the three metres high and one metre wide pharaonic statue.
Basins from the Graeco-Roman era were also located there, according to the prosecution.
The quarry area, amounting to over 34 acres, is subject to the country’s Antiquities Protection Law.
The statement added that video footage sent via social media apps were found on the defendants’ mobile phones showing “statues suspected to be archaeological, and other clips of excavation work.”
The prosecution also ordered the speedy investigation of others involved in the crime.
According to the Egyptian penal code, crimes related to illegal excavation of antiquities are punishable by harsh prison sentences that amount to life imprisonment (25 years in prison) and by hefty fines.