Sunday, July 19, 2009



The Cairo Caper

On a documentary about cons/thieves around the world that made great profit out of their criminal activities, I recorded this transcript.. "Master Minds"

Master Minds, TV detective documentary Wed Oct 24 04:28:00 2007

Narrator: The press called him "Indiana Jones," a daring tomb raider who looted ancient artifacts from Egypt.

He obviously recognized that there was a potential to make a huge income from smuggling these antiquities into the west and selling them. His accomplices idolized him as a master of deception. The idea behind the smuggling operation is a fantastic, very, very clever idea. It's brilliant. He was a top player in a dangerous game.

Parry [A] I was immensely proud of what I was doing. It's a game which requires wit and skill and very good nerves.

For 10 years, he eluded authorities on two continents and made millions. Find out how he did it -- next, on "masterminds." Beneath the sands of Egypt lie the remains of 5,000 years of human history. In the early '90s, there was an upsurge in the smuggling of these ancient artifacts. Property was being excavated from the ground and then suddenly turning up in the west and being sold for huge profits.

In an effort to protect their priceless cultural heritage, Egyptian authorities cracked down. Security was dramatically increased. The risks are considerable. Egyptian prisons are not a place that you want to spend a great deal of time in.

But in London, the center of the illegal-antiquities trade, British authorities noticed a flood of illicit goods still coming onto the Market. Various people across the western world were prepared to pay bigger and bigger money. Presuming that you have the expertise, you can make millions of pounds per year.

Police feared someone had found a way to beat the system. This British smuggler was manipulating the whole system for financial gain. He exploits the antiquity Market, but he exploits it brilliantly. Then, in 1993, a 3,000-year-old sculpture of an ancient pharaoh, Amenhotep03 , came onto the London Market.

It was an extremely significant piece. It was a very rare piece.

Smuggler [A] At the height of the gulf war, with security at an all-time high, a master smuggler had found a way to do the impossible. If I had been caught at that time, they'd have killed me.

His most brilliant move was being able to transport it out of Egypt without raising any questions. To get the piece out of the country, he took the shadowy art of smuggling to a level law enforcement had never seen before. Back in England, the statue was transformed from contraband into a legitimate collector's piece and sold for over a million dollars.

He was a mastermind of smuggling antiquities from Egypt.

A lot of the newspapers over here saw me as a sort of Indiana Jones. [A] I saw myself as something very old-fashioned and very traditional, doing something that the English do well -- smuggling with calm nerves and moral courage and a sense of fun -- a sense of humor.

Parry [A] was a dashing, romantic figure, and one of the most ingenious smugglers of the 20th century. The question is, how did he do it? Parry is one of the 20th century's greatest antiquity smugglers, eluding massive security to escape from Egypt with a million-dollar sculpture. But this mastermind with nerves of steel didn't start out like Indiana Jones. Born into a middle-class family, Parry is accepted into prestigious Cambridge university. He develops an interest in art and antiquities and reinvents himself as an upper-class gentleman.

[a] My family wanted me to get on a train and go into the city and make a lot of money and have a heart attack when I was 50. And I point-blank refused.

He's [A] a complex character. He has almost a heightened sense of honor. He wanted to go into the army but was turned down. He then joined the territorial army -- sort of weekend soldiers and part-timers. Denied the opportunity to pursue a full-time military career, Parry returns to his first love, the past.

[A] Just touching something ancient was a wonderful feeling. You catch a vibration. And I knew that that was what I wanted to do.

After training as an antiquities restorer, he quickly gains an international reputation.

[A] I was the highest-paid restorer in England, probably Europe, but I still could not afford to buy any of these wonderful objects. I would have the most stunning things on my table that I had restored and brought back to life, and then I'd have to give them back. And I realized that a restorer is just a servant.

What Parry wants is to be his own master. He was restoring objects for dealers who were selling them for thousands or even hundreds of thousands of pounds. And I think his head was turned. He obviously recognized that there was a potential to make a huge income from smuggling these antiquities into the west and selling them.

[A] Egypt is the place if you have a passion for antiquities -- 3,000 years of continuous civilization, an enormous number of objects and buildings, and the feeling that, at any time, something wonderful is going to turn up.

Parry travels to Cairo, under the guise of a researcher. There, he makes contact with a local smuggler. He befriended a chap called Ali Farag, who was the youngest of a large family, all of whom were engaged in smuggling antiquities out of Egypt.

[C] Ali Farag tells Parry about an artifact that has been found at a construction site, but the gulf war is raging, and Parry must proceed with extreme caution.

The country was under full military alert. Foreigners were being arrested if they were seen with Egyptians. [A] I was actually hiding in the boot of the car because there were roadblocks everywhere. Went out to the southern suburbs of Cairo.

A building contractor with connections to the smuggling underworld has unearthed an ancient artifact. Parry realizes he's looking at a 3,000-year-old sculpture that will make him a very rich man, if he can keep his cool.

[A] The Egyptians are the best salesmen in the world. They're psychologically so brilliant.

The high-stakes game begins.

[A] He was looking at me, and I met his eyes and looked away. The last thing I'm gonna do is let this one go, because I've been waiting for 5 years for this.

Parry is desperate, but so is the contractor. Parry calls his bluff. The Egyptians were panicking. They were desperate for currency.

Now the master dealmaker drives a very hard bargain -- $6,000 cash for a million-dollar piece of history.

[A] I had my first world-class piece. There wasn't any period of feeling, "oh, the world is wonderful. God's on my side." All I realized was, "oh, Christ, how am I gonna get this out?"

Because being caught with the piece could be fatal, he must think fast. His most brilliant move and the move that no one else had identified was the actual disguising of the piece.

[A] And that meant preparing it, which was to make the object look, as much as possible, like a kitsch, a bazaar thing, the sort that idiots buy in the hotel shops all the time. To do this, I had to take a battered antiquity and make it look like a modern complete object, so I had to build up -- make up the things which were missing.

He coats the statue with a gum and applies gold leaf. He polishes the leaf, then paints the sculpture so it looks like a cheap souvenir. He then buys a real souvenir, keeps the receipt, removes the base, and places the sculpture on it.

[A] Having done that, the object looked absolutely ghastly, but it gave us a good chance of getting through. Security was double. There were armed soldiers everywhere. In fact, it was just complete bloody madness for me to do it. And the consequences of getting it wrong would be really, really nasty. I would have been taken to the desert and not come back.

At the airport, security is everywhere. Parry is stopped by the antiquities police.

[A] a guard made me open the suitcase, and he said, "what is this?" I said, "oh, it's a present. Here's the receipt." And I tried to distract him by holding the receipt. And then the bit I dreaded -- he reached into his pocket, and he brought out his bloody keys. Now, Egyptians are very good with keys. They get a key, and they scratch the surface. And I knew that, if he scratched on the face, he would go straight through to the stone, and I'd be buggered. And as he went to scratch, I said, "no, no, not there -- underneath -- much better."

I had to get him down to the base, where I'd prepared an extra inch of plaster just for him to scratch. And he saw the plaster, looked at it, and waved his hand, and wandered off. And thank god I got it right.

Back in England, he sails through customs, but his work is far from complete. First, he must remove the elaborate disguise without damaging the sculpture. Breaking the gilding and plaster is far too risky. But his expert knowledge of chemistry pays off. Before he covered the statue in plaster, he coated it with a protective layer of plastic.

[A] I put it into a bath of acetone, and gradually, gently, everything will float off, leaving the antiquity exactly as I received it in Egypt.

He then took it to the next stage, where he actually changed the eyeline. He added part of the beard to it -- in his own words, "give it a better line so that the collectors would pay more money for it."

But if buyers suspect the piece is stolen, they'll alert police, so he now forges documents to give the statue a convincing history.

[A] To make the labels, I took some Victorian pharmacy labels, cut out the letters, rearranged them, had them printed on a very old stock of paper, and then practiced my copperplate '20s handwriting with ink which I'd chemically faded. And then, having cut out the label, I aged it. I soaked it in tea. I dried it. I wet it. I dried it again. So I had a label that looked thoroughly scratched and ancient.

He glues the label to the back of the sculpture.

[A] It would appear that the object hadn't come from Egypt at all -- had come from an old country collection in England.

Parry is now ready to strike. Through his network of international antiquities dealers, he sells the sculpture for a million dollars.

[A] Congratulations. I couldn't believe it. It seemed that I'd actually achieved what I'd wanted in one hit.

But this success is just the beginning. And Parry's ambition to be the world's greatest antiquities smuggler will soon threaten to bring him down.

Parry [A] has made a million dollars smuggling the sculpture of Amenhotep03. Over the next 4 years, he continues to secretly export Egyptian antiquities and reaps a fortune. He indulged himself with his life-style. He had several suits made by his Devon tailor. He bought an extremely expensive sports car.

[A] I made millions of pounds, which was nice. It's nice to be paid for what you love doing.

As soon as the money got bigger, the objects got bigger, and the whole game became more dangerous and more sophisticated. He realized that he needed a mule to carry these pieces out. Parry targets Mark Perry, a local handyman. {Parry is not Perry. Perry is the mule}

Parry kind of walked in, and I was sort of awestruck by him. I think he saw that I was gullible in the first place. He knew that, "here's a lad, a young lad, young family -- very short of money." Parry offers {the mule}

Mark Perry [D]  500 a week, plus all the adventure he can handle.

[D] Somebody comes along to me and says, "you're going over to Egypt, where you're going to stay in a hotel -- all expenses paid -- and I'm gonna pay you for it" -- but I had the chance of adventure. I had the chance of money and getting away from the day-to-day realities of life. I could actually do something.

Parry soon introduces his protégé to Egypt's smuggling underworld.

[D] We arrived in Cairo, and nothing prepared me for what I was about to feel that day -- just amazing to see. And of course, again, I was awestruck by it all.

[A] I showed Mark what I was doing.

He even trained him in how to camouflage the objects. And then Mark would bring them back to this country.

[A] And I took him through customs once to show him the techniques. And I instructed him very, very carefully what to do if there was any problem.

[D] I did all the dirty donkey work. It was my life on the line. I've carried half a million pounds' worth of antiquity in a bag through the center of Cairo and not even thought anything of it -- didn't even realize what I had. All I was wanting to do was get back for a beer in the bar.

With his mule in place, Parry now hires a more sophisticated partner to help negotiate with the Egyptians.

He makes a deal with 

[E] Andrew may, an aristocrat fallen on hard times.

[A] We had a gentleman's understanding that he would only take the smaller pieces that were no longer of any concern to me, and that he would train himself in the Market, and, eventually, maybe, in a decade's time, he would take over for me.

But [E] Andrew may soon turns out to be a problem. The mistake he made with Andrew may was that, having gone to Egypt and seen the huge amounts of money that could be made, Andrew may had begun buying pieces and bringing them out, as well as bringing out Parry's pieces.

[A] He was too greedy and too hungry and too frightened. And he tried, putting it very simply, to rip me off.

The big difference between [A] Parry and [E] Andrew was that Parry had worked with antiquities for many, many years as a restorer. Parry had done his homework. Andrew, in the space of months, tried to pull off the same act and lacked the knowledge.

In Cairo, Andrew buys a collection of rare, ancient Egyptian documents known as "papyrus." But fearing the artifacts are fake, he takes them to the British museum to be authenticated. It was one of the most stupid things that you could possibly have done.

Museum archeologists quickly realized these are artifacts that they had originally discovered and that had been stolen in Egypt. They contact police.

When we were contacted by the British museum -- formed an opinion immediately that it was such a dumb thing to have done that this person couldn't possibly be responsible for the theft and the looting of this material.

When we started to research Andrew may, we found that he was the owner of a manor house in Devon. One of his tenants was Parry [A], somebody who had a large collection of Egyptian material and was working as a restorer.

The police are ready to move against Parry, but when they arrive at his home, he isn't there. They have to break in.

We found Parry's [A] workshop, and it was in the workshop that we found a vast amount of antiquities.

So it was fortuitous or perhaps unfortunate for Parry that he turned up while we were in his house.

[A] When I got to my front door, I could see that my kitchen window had been smashed. And there was a great, stout man there. And I said to him, "have I been burgled? What's happening?" And he said, "we're the police." And I said, "oh, thank god you're here." And he said, "well, actually, we did that, and we're here to arrest you." And I said, "well, why couldn't you have bloody knocked like anybody else?"

Parry reacted in a typical Parry way. He put on a superior air -- that he was better than anyone else who might be there. He huffed and puffed. He had a rational explanation for everything that he was doing.

Parry [A] is arrested on the charge of handling stolen property. His 10-year multimillion-dollar smuggling operation has finally caught up with him, but putting him in prison will prove extremely difficult.

Parry [A] is arrested but cannot be charged with smuggling because his crimes were committed in Egypt.

And to actually prosecute Parry in this country was not easy. The police are forced to charge him with the lesser crime of handling stolen property. Although he is eventually found guilty, authorities are troubled by the difficulty of bringing him to justice. As a result, new laws are enacted, giving police the power to charge smugglers in their country of residence.

The case itself has redrawn the legal lines for the antiquities Market, the antiquities trade in not just this country, not just in the USA, but for the world.

But to this day, Parry believes he did nothing wrong.

[Parry] I was immensely proud of what I was doing, because having seen what was going on in Egypt, I was aware that, if it weren't for people like me, a lot of those objects would be destroyed.

I've no doubt that he justified his actions to himself through being the modern-day robin hood, saving antiquities for the world. Despite what Parry would like to think of himself, he is and was a criminal.

After serving 3 years of a 6-year sentence, Parry [A] is released. He is currently working again as a restorer and is often consulted by police investigating the illegal-antiquities trade. -- Captions by vitac -- www.Vitac.Com captions paid for by the courtroom television network


If you ever watched the Antique Road Show, you will see that stuff only 100 .. 200 years can sell for thousands or a couple hundred thousand.

On multiple programs they also show accounts where people bring in forged antiques. Any.. All Egyptology artifacts .. antiques of any kind are to be suspected. Things made of stone or etched in stone are impossible to validate.

Even in this "smuggled piece" , "He then took it to the next stage, where he actually changed the eyeline. He added part of the beard to it -- in his own words, "give it a better line so that the collectors would pay more money for it." (also modified the broken nose).

The discovery of Egyptian artifacts / information is worth hundreds of thousands or millions, directly in cash or in fame that will indirectly put that cash in a faker's pocket. Being "a respected archeologist" is the best way to pass off forgeries.

The broken statue shown in this documentary was a little bigger than a man's hand.

Smuggled, modified to get collectors to pay more money for it.. this little broken piece sold for over 1 million pounds. {British pounds are more than dollars}

This crook made million(S) of pounds in a period of 10 years. He spent 3 years in prison and came out with his millions of pounds still in his pockets.

It is impossible to trust any one when it comes to ancient Egyptian finds. What is really funny is how much of the public believes these people because of their title.. and really funny is when those "Egyptologist" do not even have any physical evidence when they claim to have some new information or evidence about ancient Egypt.

The antique detectives were doing some of the speaking in the documentary. This program will be repeated on the documentary "Master Minds", the title: Cairo Caper


A fool and his money are soon departed

Parry [ the smuggler] may have created the forgeries himself. It would be so easy to work with another crook inside of Egypt. In the world of theft exist those who do the stealing and those who will jump on goods they think is stolen. By making his crook customers believe he got out of Egypt with a great stolen artifact, it would add great value.

Who ever ended up buying these pieces can be counted among the world's fools.


In the reenactment of this smuggler he was informed that a contractor had dug up an ancient artifact while excavating. The smuggler had to hide in the trunk and go to the site after dark, at night time on a construction site, Parry [ the smuggler ] paid 6,000 pounds

[ 6,000 British Pound = 12,300 US Dollar ]

This piece (about as big as a soft ball) is made out of stone.

NO isotope tests could validate this piece.

NO carbon dating test could validate this piece.

NO ultraviolet test could validate this piece.

NO electro-microscope test could validate this piece.

Unless the piece of carved stone had elements (steel, plastic..) in it that did not exist at that time, there would be NO scientific way to prove when it was carved. After a stone is a stone and (unless it came from outer space) every stone on earth is the same age.

... So in fear for his own safety, Parry hides in a trunk, goes to a construction site after dark and pays $12,000 for a carved stone in which he had NO way of testing.

He then brought a smuggled piece back to Britain, added a part of a beard and the missing parts of the broken nose.. and sold his smuggled / embellished piece for over 1 Mill/Pounds .. 2 million dollars?

... So collectors are willing to pay over 2 million dollars for a carved stone the size of a softball, which is impossible to verify when it was carved?

It would be a good guess that the Egyptian contractor who "found" the rock had the greatest laugh. All he would had to do is to get a local artist to create the piece and throw it in the mud on the construction site.

No matter, in the end, some goof paid over 2 million dollars for a carved piece of rock that any novice could create.


What is the chance of "Hyksos" forgeries being milled out? The problem is they do not even have to be good forgeries. The collectors want so bad to obtain such a piece, they are fools for the making.

Today there are many scientific test that can expose fake artifacts, but in the 1800s and 1900s when Egyptology was a rage, forgers could and did rake in millions. Today museums are full of these fakes and no one will ever know the difference.

Before accepting any artifact or ancient text as authentic, you better at least do some basic investigation to get a clue.

Would people actually create forgeries of Egyptian artifacts ? Duh, they would and they do. Forgries of artifacts and paintings earn thieves millions of dollars.

Are people... even "experts" fooled by forgeries? Duh who do you think is being made fools by the forgers !