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Copyright 2002 Agencia EFE S.A

[ June 4th 2002 ]

Two Panamanian National Culture Institute officials were dismissed for their alleged involvement in the theft of four Pre-Columbian gold pieces, officials said. INAC Director Rafael Ruiloba told EFE that the pieces were stolen two months ago from a safe inside the agency's treasury.

The two items were part of 12 pieces that authorities had previously confiscated from "huaqueros," or tomb raiders. The dismissals for "negligence" and "lack of trust" came as a result of an internal investigation opened as soon as it was discovered that the pieces were missing, Ruiloba said. Each piece could fetch as much as $10,000 on the black market, Ruiloba said.

Two other officials are also being investigated in connection with the theft. INAC reported the incident to judicial authorities for further investigation. "We expect those involved in this incident to go to prison to show that our cultural heritage must be respected and also to set a precedent," Ruiloba said.

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