British Museum deputy chief QUITS amid row over theft of artefacts

British Museum deputy chief QUITS amid row over theft and vandalism of around 2,000 ancient artefacts worth millions of pounds: Jonathan Williams leaves institution following claims he ‘ignored warnings that stolen items were being flogged on eBay’

The Deputy Director of the British Museum is leaving the institution, according to a report.

Dr Jonathan Williams is stepping down, and it is not known if his departure is voluntary or if he has been dismissed, the BBC reports.

It comes after an estimated 2,000 items from the collection, worth millions of pounds, were found to be missing, stolen or damaged and that police were investigating.

Dr Williams oversaw an investigation into the thefts after he was tipped off by a gem dealer, Dr Ittai Gradel, who said he had seen artefacts on eBay and sent evidence to the museum.

Dr Gradel alleged that he ‘heard nothing from the museum for some time’ before Dr Williams eventually responded to say an investigation had found that ‘there was no suggestion of any wrongdoing’. The museum has since accepted that something went seriously wrong.

The British Museum previously disclosed that one million artefacts were unregistered

It comes as the institution is this week set to publish the findings of an independent review into the dramatic incident.

Around 1,500 items – including jewellery, sculpture fragments and pottery – disappeared over a nearly 30-year period while a further 350 artefacts had portions removed, such as gold mounts from gems.

It is understood museum trustees, including chairman George Osborne, received a copy of the review last week and discussed it at a board meeting.

A source told The Sunday Times recommendations are to be published this week and are ‘expected to suggest a tightening of security and improved record-keeping’.

The independent review is being led by Lucy D’Orsi, chief constable of the British Transport Police, Sir Nigel Boardman, a former British Museum board member and Ian Karet, a lawyer.

This is a breaking news story, more to follow. 

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