Homebound, the shipping agent hired by France, had declared the 145 artefacts awaiting shipment to Paris as ‘general cargo’, leading to the crates being left unattended for three hours on the tarmac and the theft of two Vishnu statues.
Meanwhile, the government has sent a letter to the French embassy in Dhaka communicating its decision not to send the remaining artefacts.
It regretted that it could not continue with dispatch of the age-old objects that were to be on display at the Guimet Museum in the French capital as part of a bilateral agreement.
A huge public outcry over the developments had been the major consideration when making the decision, it added.
Following the Bangladesh government’s request to cancel the exhibition planned for January, the Guimet museum authorities have been considering taking the matter to international arbitration, BBC Bangla Service reported yesterday morning.
The agreement signed between France and Bangladesh says, “The Borrower ensures the security of the artefacts in accordance with the security standards applicable to French Museum. The Borrower guarantees to the Lender that the loaned works are under continuous and vigilant protection.”
But Bangladesh Biman, Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB), Air France, the cultural affairs ministry and French embassy–none had bothered to take special measures to ensure safety of the relics, said sources close to the shipment process.
One of the officials tasked with investigating the art heist said what they have gathered so far suggests that the idols were stolen sometime between Saturday 3:30am and 6:30am. During those three hours, the 13 boxes containing the artefacts were left unattended on the tarmac.
“We wonder how come the theft took place at such a highly restricted area,” said the investigator requesting not to be named.
That there is no roster of the vehicles that entered the cargo village area that night has made the investigation job more complicated, added the law enforcer.
The Homebound Courier Services paid Air France only $12,486 for the boxes weighing 4,094 kilograms.
“Had they declared the consignment as valuable and asked for extra care they would have been charged 250 percent more,” a cargo airline official said in return for anonymity.
Now if the Homebound demands compensation for the lost goods, Air France would not pay more than $20 for per kilogram, the rate for general goods.
So, for the two 1,500-year-old statues weighing 64 kilograms the National Museum will get no more than $1,280 dollar that is equivalent to Tk 85,000.
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