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FBI investigating sale of suspected stolen treasures from British Museum, BBC reports

The FBI is investigating the sale of what are suspected to be hundreds of artefacts from the British Museum to buyers in the United States, the BBC reported on Monday. According to the report, the US law enforcement agency has also facilitated the return of 268 items, which the London museum claims belong to it, that were sold to a collector in Washington DC.

Last year, the British Museum announced that ancient gems, jewelry, and other items from its collection were missing, stolen, or damaged. Out of the 1,500 items it estimates are stolen or missing, 626 have been recovered so far, and 100 more have been located but not yet returned.

The vast majority of the suspected stolen treasures were uncatalogued, and the museum is still working on proving they belong to its collection.

Peter Higgs, the museum’s curator of Ancient Greek collections and the acting head of the Greece and Rome department, is accused by the British Museum of stealing, damaging, melting down, and selling ancient artifacts. The museum estimates that Higgs pocketed around £100,000 in total. He denies the allegations.

Greece and the UK remain locked in a debate over the Parthenon Sculptures. Athens is demanding the return of the ancient artifacts, which were removed by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century and are currently housed in the British Museum.

Greece argues that the sculptures were taken illegally and belong in their original context, while the British Museum contends they were acquired legally and are part of world heritage accessible to an international audience.