London: British Museum Director Hartwig Fischer has resigned with immediate effect following alleged thefts of artefacts from the London institution.
In a statement on Friday, Fischer said that the museum “did not respond as comprehensively as it should have in response to the warnings (of thefts) in 2021” and that “the responsibility for that failure must ultimately rest with the director”, reports Xinhua news agency
The British Museum said last week that it had dismissed a staff member after items from its collection, including gold jewelry and gems of semiprecious stones and glass dating from as far back as the 15th century B.C., were found to be “missing, stolen or damaged”.
According to reports by the BBC, an art dealer alerted the museum to the thefts in 2021, but Fischer said the art dealer himself withheld information about the stolen items when he contacted the museum.
“I wish to express my sincere regret and withdraw those remarks,” Fischer said in his resignation statement.
The museum has launched an independent review of security and the matter is now also being investigated by the Metropolitan Police.
Police said on Thursday that a man had been interviewed by investigating officers over the thefts but no arrests had been made.
Fischer took up the post of director of the museum in 2016 and was due to step down in 2024.
The museum’s Board of Trustees has accepted his resignation.
“I am clear about this: we are going to fix what has gone wrong,” British Museum Chair George Osborne said.
One of the UK’s largest tourist attractions, the Bloomsbury-based museum sees more than six million people visiting it each year.
Its collection spans six continents and two million years of history, including the Parthenon sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles.