The disappearance of the Emirati ambassador in Cairo, amid reports of his involvement in the case of smuggling antiquities

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About 4 months after his appointment as ambassador of the United Arab Emirates in Cairo, Ambassador Hamad Al Shamsi suddenly disappeared from view, coinciding with the Egyptian authorities’ announcement of the arrest of a former parliamentarian and a prominent businessman, on the grounds of accusing them of excavating and trading in antiquities.

Besides the accounts of the UAE embassy in Egypt, on social media, stopped mentioning any news related to Hamad Al Shamsi since last June 20, after it was filled with news of his activities and his meetings with Egyptian officials, while unconfirmed news spread about his deportation outside Egypt due to his involvement in the case of smuggling antiquities under registration is under investigation.

Mysterious disappearance and no official data

On June 20, the accounts of the UAE Embassy in Cairo were published on the Facebook and Twitter platforms, its latest news about Ambassador Hamad Al Shamsi, regarding his meeting with the Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry, Neven Gamea, to discuss cooperation in the industrial field. Since then, and over the course of 6 whole months, the news of Al-Shamsi has completely disappeared, while the name of Maryam Al-Kaabi, the deputy ambassador, who is now described as the “acting head of the UAE mission in Cairo”, has emerged, as have other leaders in the embassy, ​​such as Abdullah Al-Hammadi, who has become “acting in charge”.

Hamad Al Shamsi’s personal account on Twitter was active until July 24, when his last activity was to re-post a tweet by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE, before his activity stopped without a declared reason. Al Shamsi was appointed as the UAE’s ambassador and permanent representative to the Arab League in Cairo in March 2021, meaning that only 4 months passed since his appointment before his mysterious disappearance, which excludes the possibility of him being excluded from appointing a new ambassador in his place.

It is noteworthy that Al Shamsi, before his mysterious disappearance, had the confidence of the Emirati leadership, as he previously held important positions such as the UAE ambassador to the international organization Interpol, the UAE ambassador to Lebanon, the director of the office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Dubai, and advisor to the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Was Shamsi deported for his involvement in smuggling antiquities?

Three days after the disappearance of Hamad Al Shamsi, specifically on June 24, 2021, the Egyptian authorities announced the arrest of the former parliamentarian, Alaa Hassanein, on charges of leading a gang formation to excavate and trade in antiquities. 201 antiquities were found in his possession. On June 29, the security services arrested the well-known businessman, Hassan Ratib, on charges of financing Hassanein with millions of pounds to excavate and smuggle antiquities abroad. Investigations are still underway in the case, amid talks about the involvement of officials in the case.

The disappearance of the Emirati ambassador coincided with the investigation into the antiquities case, prompting many to link them and believe that Al Shamsi was involved in the case and that he was deported to his country, as is the diplomatic custom in such cases. This account was reinforced by a post written by the former ambassador, Mohamed Morsi Awad, the last ambassador of Egypt in Qatar before the severing of relations between the two countries in 2017, on his Facebook account, on Friday, December 17, in which he said that Egypt had deported the Emirati ambassador “after investigations with Hassan Ratib and his partner, Alaa Hassanein, were involved in smuggling Egyptian antiquities with Emirati diplomatic bags.

Awad said that this “is a correct decision that confirms the vigilance of the Egyptian security and oversight services, and the good behaviour of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by dealing with the matter professionally, without provoking a concern for relations with the UAE.” Awad added: “This procedure must be complemented by a similar Emirati procedure that includes quickly punishing the ambassador who committed crimes against his country and against the country that hosted him, with the return of antiquities that had previously been smuggled, and with him an answer to a thousand questions and inquiries about the behaviour of the Emirates that intersect and contradict our interests in Several vital files for Egypt.

Hours after this post was published, Awad deleted it, and wrote another post in which he apologized for what he had said about the Emirati ambassador, saying that some of what was contained in his deleted post “was quoting from sources that turned out to be unreliable.” So far, rumours circulate about the matter, amid complete official silence on the part of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.