British Museum deputy director steps back after boss quits over theft probe

The top of the British Museum has resigned and his deputy has stepped back within the wake of a scandal over stolen artefacts that has prompted a police investigation.

Director Hartwig Fischer and deputy director Jonathan Williams each introduced their selections on Friday.

German artwork historian, Mr Fischer, mentioned the scenario dealing with the London museum was “of the utmost seriousness” and that accountability for the failure “should in the end relaxation with the director”.

The museum’s board of trustees accepted his resignation, with former chancellor George Osborne – chairman of trustees – saying Mr Fischer had “acted honourably” and that “no-one has ever doubted Hartwig’s integrity, his dedication to his job, or his love for the museum”.

The establishment mentioned Mr Fischer would step down “with speedy impact”, however later clarified he would step down as soon as an interim management association was in place.

The PA information company understands the end result of the interim association is predicted inside days.

A press release from the British Museum later mentioned Williams had agreed to “voluntarily step back” from his duties till the impartial overview into the thefts had concluded.

The museum mentioned this might occur “with speedy impact”.

In his assertion, Mr Fischer admitted the museum “didn’t reply as comprehensively because it ought to have in response to warnings in 2021” concerning the stolen artefacts.

“Over the previous few days I’ve been reviewing intimately the occasions across the thefts from the British Museum and the investigation into them,” he mentioned.

“It’s evident that the British Museum didn’t reply as comprehensively because it ought to have in response to the warnings in 2021, and to the issue that has now absolutely emerged.

“The accountability for that failure should in the end relaxation with the director.”

Ittai Gradel, an creator, tutorial and antiquities supplier, had beforehand alerted the museum to among the stolen objects, and informed the PA information company that claims he had withheld data from the establishment have been an “outright lie”.

“I used to be express in my communication with the BM (British Museum) that I used to be solely at their disposal for any additional data or help they might require. They by no means contacted me,” he mentioned.

In his assertion Mr Fischer mentioned he had “misjudged the remarks I made earlier this week about Dr Gradel”.

“I want to categorical my honest remorse and withdraw these remarks,” he mentioned.

It’s evident that the British Museum didn’t reply as comprehensively because it ought to have in response to the warnings in 2021, and to the issue that has now absolutely emerged

Hartwig Fischer

He continued: “I’ve supplied my resignation to the chairman of the trustees, and can step down as quickly because the board have established an interim management association. It will stay in place till a brand new director is chosen.

“The scenario dealing with the museum is of the utmost seriousness. I sincerely consider it can come by this second and emerge stronger, however sadly I’ve come to the conclusion that my presence is proving a distraction.

“That’s the very last thing I’d need. During the last seven years I’ve been privileged to work with among the most proficient and devoted public servants.

“The British Museum is an incredible establishment, and it has been the honour of my life to guide it.”

In July, Mr Fischer, who has been within the submit since 2016, introduced he can be stepping down subsequent yr.

Mr Osborne mentioned: “Hartwig had already introduced his intention to step down some weeks in the past, so the method of discovering a brand new everlasting director is already beneath approach.

“The trustees will now set up an interim association, guaranteeing that the museum has the required management to take it by this turbulent interval as we be taught the teachings of what went improper, and use them to develop plans for a robust future.

“The trustees additionally want to thank the various, many employees who work so arduous for the museum and hold it operating.

“I’m clear about this: we’re going to repair what has gone improper. The museum has a mission that lasts throughout generations.

“We’ll be taught, restore confidence and need to be admired as soon as once more.”

The Metropolitan Police confirmed on Thursday {that a} man had been interviewed in reference to the alleged thefts.

The power mentioned no arrests had been made and it might proceed to work “intently” with the British Museum as inquiries proceed.

An unnamed member of employees has been sacked and the museum mentioned it’s taking authorized motion.

It’s understood that the objects – which embrace gold jewelry, gems of semi-precious stones and glass – have been taken earlier than 2023 and over a “important” time period.

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