The British Museum has filed a lawsuit against a former curator for the theft of nearly 2,000 objects

LONDON (AP) — The British Museum filed a lawsuit Tuesday against a former curator who allegedly did just that Hundreds of artifacts stolen From his collections and And offered it for sale online.

The museum is suing Peter Higgs, who was fired in July 2023 after more than 1,800 objects were discovered missing. Museum lawyers say Higgs “exploited his position of trust” to steal ancient gemstones, gold jewelry and other items from storage over the course of a decade.

Superior Court Judge Heather Williams ordered Higgs to list or return any items in his possession within four weeks. It also ordered the disclosure of his records on eBay and PayPal.

The museum says it has recovered 356 of the missing pieces so far, and hopes to recover more.

“The items stolen from the museum are of cultural and historical significance,” museum lawyer Daniel Burgess said in written legal submissions.

Burgess said the defendant attempted to “cover his tracks” by using false names, creating forged documents, tampering with museum records, and selling artifacts for less than their value.

Higgs, who worked in the museum's Greece and Rome department for more than two decades, denies the allegations and intends to contest the museum's legal claim.

The lawyers said that he did not attend Tuesday's session due to his deteriorating health.

A separate police investigation is underway in this case, and Higgs has not been charged with a crime.

Museum director Hartwig Fischer resigned after the missing items were revealed in August, apologizing for his failure to take seriously enough a warning from an art historian that artifacts from his collection were being sold on eBay.

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Chairman of trustees George Osborne admitted that the reputation of the 265-year-old institution had been damaged by the incident.

The museum, which dates back to the eighteenth century and is located in the Bloomsbury district of central London, is one of the largest tourist attractions in Britain, with six million people visiting it annually. They come to see collections ranging from Egyptian mummies and ancient Greek statues to Viking treasures, 12th-century Chinese poetry scrolls and masks made by Canada's indigenous peoples.

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