Two curators at the yet to be opened National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation in Cairo have been arrested for allegedly stealing two ancient artefacts and replacing them with replicas. 

The Museum has been decades in planning, and is backed by UNESCO. It is due to open later this year.

The accused were detained for removing a pharaonic statue of King Menkaure, discovered in Luxor’s Karnak temple, from the new museum’s extensive storerooms and replacing it with a fake one. The pair also did the same with an ancient Islamic lantern.

The arrests were made as part of investigations that followed stolen ancient Islamic artefacts being found for sale in London.

It is a blow to the new museum, whose storage facilities were designed to be particularly secure in light of the extensive looting that the country has suffered over the past four years of political unrest.

The recent arrests have prompted the museum to undertake a full inventory of their holdings.