Norwegian Embassy driver caught smuggling antiquities
A driver employed by the Norwegian Embassy in Israel was arrested at Allenby Bridge last week when his car was found to be carrying a haul of antiquities. A senior Norwegian diplomat was in the vehicle at the time, the Israel Tax Authority said Monday.
According to the authority, last Tuesday the car bearing diplomatic plates pulled up at the Allenby border crossing and customs officials checking the car found 10 kilograms of ancient coins and figurines stashed inside cardboard boxes.
The driver was named by the Tax Authority as Issa Nagam, a resident of Beit Hanina in east Jerusalem. He was arrested on suspicion of smuggling antiquities and released on bond later in the day by a judge at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.
No details about the origin of the antiquities or their value was given by the Tax Authority, but a photo it released showed a mound of small coins and around a dozen small figurines.
An official at the Norwegian Embassy directed press inquiries to the Foreign Ministry office in Oslo.
Antiquities theft is a rather large industry in Israel, where antiquities thieves – mainly from Palestinian villages in the West Bank but not only – hunt for artifacts that can be sold illegally to collectors both inside and outside of Israel. Particularly popular are Bar Kochba-era tunnels and graves, which often turn up highly valuable coins. Antiquities spirited out of the country can also be used as a means of laundering money.
SOME OF THE ANTIQUITIES seized by Customs Authority officers at the Allenby Bridge last week from the driver of the Norwegian Embassy.