Page last updated at 13:50 GMT, Sunday, 21 December 2008

Pharaoh's head returned to Egypt

Sculpture of Amenhotep III
Negotiations over the head's return had been ongoing for some years

A 3,500-year-old stone head stolen from Egypt almost 20 years ago has been returned to the country's embassy.

The sculpture, depicting a pharaoh who died in 1375BC, was smuggled out of Egypt in 1990, breaching laws banning export of antiques over 100 years old.

London antiques restorer Jonathan Tokeley-Parry dipped the sculpture of Amenhotep III in plastic and painted it black to make it resemble a cheap copy

Now, 10 years after he was jailed, the head has been returned in a ceremony.

In 2002, a US dealer was also jailed for handling the article., which was found in London by police in 1999.

Since then, the international legalities of returning it have been negotiated and finally agreed.

Det Sgt Vernon Rapley, Head of the Met Art and Antiques unit, said: "It is a great privilege to be able to finally hand this priceless item back to the Egyptian authorities.

"It is a valuable piece of Egyptian history, which was ruthlessly taken by an organised criminal, who sought to strip the country of its antiquities for his own profit."

Tokeley-Parry, a well-known figure in the art world, was convicted in 1997 of illegally selling stolen archaeological finds, and spent three years in prison.

In 1999, the Metropolitan Police recovered the sculpture.

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