(CNN)The Dutch government returned a stolen ceremonial crown to the Ethiopian government Thursday.
The 18th-century crown, which has great religious significance, went missing from a church in Ethiopia 21 years ago, the Dutch government said in a statement.
Sirak Asfaw, a Dutch national of Ethiopian origin who emigrated to the Netherlands in the late 1970s, said in a video recording that the crown "came into his hands" in 1998.
Asfaw, a former refugee, told the AFP in an interview that he found the crown in a suitcase left behind by a guest to his apartment.
However, he kept the priceless object hidden for 21 years.
He said he was reluctant to return "looted heritage to the same regime as the one during which it was stolen...That is why I have waited for 21 years and have safeguarded it all those years," he said in a video posted when news of the crown emerged in October 2019.
CNN was not able to reach Asfaw for comment before publishing.
Special handover ceremony
Asfaw added that he was also concerned that the Dutch authorities would offer to loan the crown to Ethiopia, as happened with a Nigerian Benin bronze which the British Museum had offered to return temporarily to its owners.
However, last year Asfaw approached the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to let them know he was in possession of the object.
"Last year Asfaw got in touch through the mediation of art det