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Updated Feb 24, 2020

An 18th-century crown was returned to Ethiopia on Thursday, twenty-one years after it had first gone missing from an Ethiopian church, according to a statement by the Dutch government. The crown wound up in the hands of a Dutch national, Sirak Asfaw, who emigrated from Ethiopia in the 1970s. Asfaw told Agence France-Presse in an interview that he found the artifact in 1998 inside a suitcase left behind by a guest visiting his apartment.

Asfaw’s reluctance to return the crown over such a long period came in part from his reticence toward the Marxist-Leninist Derg regime in Ethiopia he fled from and concerns that the Netherlands would offer to loan the crown instead of just handing it back. He eventually contacted renowned art crime investigator Arthur Brand and asked him to act as a mediator, which led to the interested parties getting together at a special handing-over ceremony where Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed received the crown personally. Asfaw was in attendance alongside the Dutch foreign trade and development minister Sigrid Kaag.

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