SEREMBAN: Several parties, including a museum overseas, have come forward to claim artefacts worth about RM154mil that were seized at Port Klang last year.
Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said the claims had to be checked and the real owner determined, before a decision was made on what to do with the more than 350 items.
He said it also had to be confirmed if the items, now kept in the National Museum, belonged to American Philip Greco @ Spoeneman Philip Joseph.
“Other governments and museums in the world may also be claiming them,” he said, adding that a museum in Manila was among the claimants.
Dr Rais said the claimants maintained they had proof of contract with Greco as well as the parties who provided loans.
“However, we still have to check these claims from the legal aspects,” he said when relating developments on the seizure at the Negri Sembilan contingent police headquarters here on Monday night.
“If they are genuine, we can do the valuation and allow some of the items to be claimed.”
Dr Rais was launching the Budi Bahasa Budi Kita (“Courtesy is our way of life”) campaign together with the new Inspector-General
of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan and state police chief Senior Asst Comm I Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar.
Greco, a resident here under the Malaysia My Second Home programme, is believed to be connected to the seized items, which were found in eight containers ready to be shipped to Dubai last September.
Among the items, which were declared as household goods, were swords, giant drums, porcelain ware, crystal products, Chinese vases, engravings, furniture, antique firearms, and engraved stalactites and stalagmites.
It was reported that Greco had, early last year, offered to sell some of the artefacts to the Malaysian Government for US$31mil (RM117.8mil).
On June 12, his wife Jane Ann Fisher filed a suit against the Customs Department director-general and Government at the Shah Alam High Court seeking the return of the seized artefacts.
Alternatively, she is seeking that the defendants pay her US$43mil (RM154.8mil), said to be the value of the relics.