An 18th century church crown stolen from Ethiopia decades ago has been returned from the Netherlands after it was found in a suitcase more than 20 years ago, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Thursday.
The bronze crown is thought to be one of just 20 of its kind in existence. It has depictions of the Christian Holy Trinity as well as Jesus Christ’s disciples.
An adviser to the prime minister said he believed the crown had disappeared from the Holy Trinity Church in Cheleqot, in Tigray, North Ethiopia, and that it belonged to the government.
Sirak Asfaw, an Ethiopian refugee, found the crown hidden in a case belonging to someone who had transited through his apartment in Rotterdam, the state-affiliated Fana news agency said.
He realized it had been stolen but kept the discovery a secret until he was confident that it could safely be returned to Ethiopia. It was not immediately clear what happened to his transiting visitor.
“Today Ethiopia receives a precious crown stolen several years ago and taken to the Netherlands. I am grateful to Sirak Asfaw and the Netherlands government for facilitating its return,” Abiy said in a tweet.
According to Ethiopian authorities, the crown had been missing since 1993.
The artifact was handed over by Sigrid Kaag, the Dutch minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, to the Ethiopian government in Addis Ababa.
Kaag said in a tweet on Thursday she was “delighted” to see the piece returned.