Israel busts Norwegian diplomat’s driver for smuggling antiquities in official car

(JTA) – Norway is launching an internal investigation after a Palestinian driver hired by one of its diplomats was arrested for attempting to smuggle valuable ancient artifacts from Jordan into eastern Jerusalem.

The Norwegian Embassy in Israel said Monday that it granted Israel permission to search the diplomat’s Mercedes last week at the Allenby Bridge crossing, which connects Jordan and the West Bank, the Times of Israel reported.

Customs officials found 10 kilograms of ancient coins, statuettes, beads and other artifacts stored inside the Jerusalem-bound car’s paneling, the Times of Israel said, citing an Israel Tax Authority spokesperson who said the items were of “great value,” but did not provide a specific estimate.

The vehicle’s driver, Issa Najam of eastern Jerusalem, was arrested during last week’s incident on suspicion of attempted smuggling, but was granted conditional release after he posted bail. Neither the antiquities’ origin nor the suspect’s plans for them has been identified.

According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, the confiscated coins date from the Hellenistic and Roman eras.

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