Several social media users did not sympathize with London’s British Museum after it announced a worker had been fired in connection with the theft, disappearance, or damage of treasures it was keeping.
According to CNN, the museum in a statement on Wednesday said the Economic Crime Command of the Metropolitan Police has since launched an investigation into the case – though an arrest is yet to be made. The museum, which attracts more than six million visitors annually, also said the missing items include “gold, jewelry and gems of semi-precious stones and glass dating from the 15th century BC to the 19th century AD.”
The statement added that most of the items were “small pieces kept in a storeroom.” The museum also said the items had recently been displayed publicly and were mainly kept for academic and research purposes.
Besides the police investigation, the museum said it has “launched an independent review of security” and will be taking legal action against the employee it dismissed over the incident.
“We have been working alongside the British Museum. There is currently an ongoing investigation — there is no arrest and enquiries continue,” the Metropolitan Police told the news outlet. “We will not be providing any further information at this time.”
The director of the British Museum, Hartwig Fischer, also said the museum will “throw our efforts into the recovery of objects”, BBC reported. “This is a highly unusual incident. I know I speak for all colleagues when I say that we take the safeguarding of all the items in our care extremely seriously,” he added.
“We have already tightened our security arrangements and we are working alongside outside experts to complete a definitive account of what is missing, damaged and stolen.”
But in the wake of the announcement, several users on “X” (formerly Twitter) appeared to poke fun at what had happened. In a 2019 article published by The Guardian, British human rights attorney Geoffrey Robertson said the British Museum trustees “have become the world’s largest receivers of stolen property, and the great majority of their loot is not even on public display.”
The items the museum has in its possession include artifacts that were stolen from the Kingdom of Benin in modern-day Nigeria by British soldiers in 1897. “Oh so now its a problem,” a user said in response to the museum’s announcement. “Thieves can’t handle being stolen from,” another user commented.
A user also asked, “Where did the Museum get them?” Another user also asked why someone was “dismissed for continuing the museum’s legacy.”
“The British Museum dismissing an employee for stealing artifacts originally stolen by the British Museum is peak irony,” said a user. “The British museum which is full of items that have been stolen, sack an employee who is then stealing stolen items? The jokes write themselves,” a different user wrote.