NGS contract with Zahi Hawass is ruled illegal

Zahi Hawass
is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Emeritus

and the former head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. 

{ Read the whole thing here. }

Related notes (via a variety of sources):

  • This ruling is not a conviction of Zahi Hawass. However, the judge did determine that when Dr. Hawass signed the contract with National Geographic, he violated Egyptian law.
  • Why was the contract illegal? Because it was not signed with a government, museum, or scientific institute — a clear violation of Article 10 of Law #117. According to one source, Zahi tried to persuade former U.S. ambassador Margaret Scobey to officially endorse the exhibit, which would have made the contract a legal agreement with a foreign government, but she refused. Her letter to that effect was apparently introduced as evidence during the hearing.
  • The court also ruled the contract was a violation of Egyptian law because then-President Mubarak never approved the deal.
  • Minister of Antiquities Mohammed Ibrahim says he will comply with the court order and will review the legal steps needed to bring Cleopatra home.
  • What about the Tut exhibit, which is now on display in Seattle, Washington — also under the auspices of National Geographic? Another court case begins in early October to determine whether Tut should return home, too.
  • In Egypt, Zahi Hawass, who was a staunch defender of President Mubarak to the bitter end, remains in legal jeopardy. And as one very prominent face of the old regime, Zahi is not a popular man in Egypt. According to one source: “The contracts for the exhibits might become part of charges against Zahi for accepting bribes. Now we know it was Zahi himself who signed the contracts (and not some other Egyptian government official) with National Geographic and AEG/AE for the exhibits, and we know from the 990 forms he was taking payments from National Geographic at the same time. This is a crime under Egyptian law and it may be a violation of the FCPA [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] in the U.S. as well. … Investigators are working hard to collect more documents to build a watertight case against him. Zahi may be referred to trial within weeks.”

Does this mean that our Society may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act? Let’s hope & pray that we have not.


This illegal contract — and the disturbing possibility of bribery and corruption charges — reminds us of two stories we posted last year….

The first story is about Terry Garcia, the Society’s EVP for Mission Programs who worked closely with Zahi Hawass for many years. In May 2011, President Obama nominated Terry to become the next Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce. But when the nomination stalled months later, Terry withdrew himself from consideration without explaining why.

(I called Terry’s office last year for comment, but he was “in a meeting” — and never called back.)

Zahi Hawass and Terry Garcia (via

The second story is Zahi’s very public embrace of Terry Garcia — and Tim Kelly & John Fahey — just as the Senate nomination process began in May 2011, and just as Zahi’s government career in Egypt was crashing & burning along with the Mubarak regime. “Terry is one of the greatest friends that I have ever had in my life,” Zahi begins his blog post. “When I think about my closest friends, Terry is at the top of the list!

Zahi then describes how Terry was a key player in the funding and organization of the Tutankhamun exhibition. At the end of the post, Zahi says: “I have faith that my two other good friends at National Geographic, John Fahey and Tim Kelly, will continue to support Egypt in the way that Terry has in the past.”  (Read the whole thing here.)

Given that Zahi probably knew that his dealings with National Geographic were legally questionable, his energetic and very public embrace of Terry, Tim, and John sounds less like an endorsement or a heartfelt “thank you,” and more like an attempt to share the glare of a media and legal spotlight which Zahi must have worried he might ultimately occupy alone.

It’s almost as if Zahi is saying: You and me, guys — we’re all in this together! 

For the sake of our Society’s reputation, it would be helpful to hear something — anything at all — from Terry, Tim or John about their dealings with Dr. Hawass, whose status inexplicably changed last year from National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence to National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence (Emeritus).

NO NEW POSTS will be published here after February 6, 2014. THIS IS WHY.