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Dubai: Three Egyptians were arrested in the process of selling an antique statue at a Cairo train station, local media reported.

According to the General Department of Transport and Communications, police managed to arrest three suspects after they got off the train at the Itai Al Baroud train station in Beheira Governorate.

The suspects were arrested before they sold the statue. They disembarked with a handbag containing a granite statue, suspected of having an important archaeological significance.

The suspects admitted that they found the statue in their town, and said that they traveled to the city of Itai Al Baroud to sell it to someone.

Security services are continuing their efforts to arrest the person to whom the defendants were supposed to sell the statue.

The suspects were referred to the Public Prosecution, which ordered a pre-trial detention pending investigation. The Supreme Council of Antiquities formed a high-level archaeological committee to examine the statue.

Last week, the public prosecution ordered the detention of 19 people pending investigations, including former MP Alaa Hassanin and renowned businessman Hassan Rateb, over the illegal excavation and trafficking of antiquities.

Rateb and Hassanin were arrested separately less than a week ago. Rateb is accused of funding the excavations, which, under Egyptian law, can only be carried out by specialised state institutions.

The prosecution said that 227 artefacts were found in the possession of the suspects.

According to the prosecution, an investigation by the Interior Ministry revealed that the gang of 19 people was trading in looted antiquities obtained in illegal excavations in different parts of the country.

The suspects aimed to both sell artefacts inside the country and smuggle pieces abroad, the investigation revealed.

A committee formed by the Supreme Council of Antiquities dated the seized artefacts to different eras in Egyptian history