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I've no moral qualms, says antiques dealer

A leading British antiques restorer who learned how to disguise ancient Egyptian artefacts as tourist trinkets to smuggle them out of the country yesterday said that Egypt had no moral right to ban the export of artefacts dating from its ancient civilisation.

Jonathan Tokeley-Parry (right), who is accused of handling stolen Egyptian artworks, told Knightsbridge Crown Court that Egypt did not have the expertise to preserve them and that such treasures should be owned by those with the wealth and knowledge to care for them.

Mr Tokeley-Parry, 46, of Wink-leigh, near Barnstaple in Devon, painted a picture of a tightly knit international antique dealers' world in which the Egyptian export ban is routinely flouted.

He admitted he learned techniques to disguise important relics as keepsakes so they could be taken through Egyptian customs without arousing suspicion.

Mr Tokeley-Parry is accused of arranging for three such disguised stolen objects - doors from the tombs of Hetepka and King Pepi and a bronze figure of the god Horus - to be brought to the United Kingdom by a courier, Mark Perry.

But defence barrister Colin Dines denied that his client had been involved in any smuggling operation with Mr Perry. He admitted Mr Tokeley-Parry had knowingly breached Egyptian law by receiving objects in that country but insisted he was innocent of the alleged offences in the UK.

Mr Tokeley-Parry said he had no moral qualms about his activities: "Beautiful objects have always been moving around the world, following the new sources of power and wealth. It seems to me that as long as these objects are where the power is and where the wealth is, they will be cared for," he said.

He recognised that the Egyptians wish to retain pieces for reasons of "national pride", but maintained that objects kept locally were being destroyed by poor conservation practices.

The trial continues today.