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The embassies of the two West African countries obtained a court order suspending the sale of the statuettes, after claiming that they figured on the “Red List” of the Conseil International des Musées (ICM) as items exported illegally from their countries of origin.

Auctioneer Catherine Charbonneaux issued a terse statement insisting that she had “respected legislation relating to the circulation of cultural goods that are subject to international conventions”.