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Cairo police search for now-it's-found now-it's-not Van Gogh

media Egyptian Culture Minister Farouq Hosni AFP

Egypt stepped up the search for a stolen Van Gogh painting on Sunday, after Culture Minister Farouq Hosni first declared it had been found and then declared it was still missing. Police are focusing on air and sea ports, security officials say.

The work, identified as Poppy Flowers by post-impressionist Vincent Van Gogh, is believed to be worth 43 million euros. It was cut out of its frame and stolen from Cairo’s Mahmoud Khalil museum on Saturday.

Haosni on Saturday evening announced that two Italians had been arrested at Cairo airport trying to smuggle the painting out of the country.

But he later publicly admitted that the report was wrong, blaming a subordinate for giving him “inaccurate” information. The subordinate has turned off his mobile phone and was unavailable for comment Sunday.

Meanwhile, prosecutors admit that the museum’s security system was “a façade”.

"There are 43 security cameras but only seven are working,” said Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmud. “Each painting is protected by an alarm but again, none are working.”

Only ten people are reported to have visited the museum on Saturday. Two separate investigations have been launched and museum staff will be interrogated.

The painting has already been stolen once before – in 1977 – but was found in 1977, leading to some speculation that the one stolen this weekend may not be the original.

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