The FINANCIAL — CAIRO. Employees at Cairo airport are thoroughly checking all passengers, luggage and cargo leaving Egypt in an attempt to find a stolen $55-million Van Gogh painting, Ria Novosti reports.
The work of art, known as both Poppy Flowers and Vase with Flowers was stolen from the Mahmoud Khalil Museum on Saturday.
"All passengers, including high-ranking officials, are being searched, regardless of their rank," Russia's Ekho Moskvy radio station reported.
According to Egyptian media reports, those leaving the country via ground and maritime borders, also face thorough checks.
The Egyptian Interior Ministry said it planned to request assistance form Interpol's Rome department, as nine museum visitors arrived to Egypt from Italy on the day the painting was stolen.
The museum was closed until further notice. Charges of negligence were laid against the head of the culture ministry's fine arts department and museum workers.
Egyptian Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid, who assumed personal control over the investigation, inspected the museum on Sunday. He confirmed information that none of the alarms and only 7 out of 43 surveillance cameras were functioning at the museum.
Meguid stressed the need to strengthen security after nine paintings were stolen in March last year from Mohammed Ali Pasha's palace, in northern Cairo.
Egypt's Culture Minister Farouk Hosni earlier said police recovered the painting by the Dutch post-Impressionist just hours after it was stolen.
But later on Sunday Hosni said the painting was still missing. He blamed his earlier mistaken statement on the painting's recovery and the arrest of suspects in the theft on erroneous information provided by a ministry official.
It is the second time that the painting has been stolen from the Khalil museum. The canvass was previously taken from the museum in 1978 and recovered a decade later in Kuwait.