Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Video: Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act Passes House

Earlier this afternoon, the House of Representatives unanimously adopted the Senate's amendment of the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act. H.R. 1493, which calls for emergency import restrictions on at-risk Syrian cultural property, now goes to the President for his signature.

View today's speech by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) on the floor of the House, just before the bill's passage by voice vote.

Source: C-SPAN

Text copyrighted 2016 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, and museum risk management. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of any blog post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a service of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Legislative Ban on Syrian Cultural Property Moves Forward in the Senate

Since the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reworked the language of the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act in February, the proposed legislation is steadily moving through the halls of Capitol Hill. Yesterday the full senate passed the measure by unanimous consent.

The heart of H.R. 1493 calls for emergency import restrictions on at-risk Syrian cultural property within 90 days of the law's passage. It no longer mandates a cultural property czar like its predecessor legislation. Instead, the bill suggests that an interagency executive committee be created to help protect international cultural property.

Because the House of Representatives originally passed H.R. 1493 in a form that is different from what the Senate adopted, House lawmakers now must now consider the Senate's version of the legislation.

Text copyrighted 2016 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, and museum risk management. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of any blog post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a service of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Russian Ambassador's Short Letter Makes Big Claims About Looted Syrian Antiquities

A letter from Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, Russia's envoy to the United Nations, has named dealers and shippers alleged to have facilitated the trade of looted antiquities from ISIS-controlled territory in Syria. Delivered to the UN Security Council on March 31, 2016 and released to the public today, the communication caught the attention of cultural property watchers, the media, and Turkey because of its blunt and provocative claims.

The two page correspondence identified the Turkish city of Gaziantep (see map below) as the focal point of smuggling "where the stolen goods are sold at illegal auctions and then through a network of antique shops and at the local market, BakırcılarÇarşısi (Eski Saray Street, Şekeroğlu district)." 

Ambassador Churkin announced that "new offices for the purchase of antiquities have opened on the Turkish-Syrian border in the administrative district of Akçakale...." He daringly identified the owner of an antique shop in the town of Kilis as a person "involved in the illicit trade" before proceeding to list individual Turkish transport companies that carried "bulky goods," describing how "[s]muggled artefacts (jewellery, coins, etc.) then arrive in the Turkish cities of Izmir, Mersin and Antalya, where representatives of international criminal groups produce fake documents on the origin of the antiquities."

The ambassador's letter contended that " ISIL has been exploiting the potential of social media more and more frequently so as to cut out the middleman and sell artefacts directly to buyers. Preference is given to cash transactions, while transactions conducted over the Internet involve the same financial institutions as are involved in transactions for the purchase of weapons and ammunition."

While the ambassador professed that "profit derived by the Islamists from the illicit trade in antiquities and archaeological treasures is estimated at US$ 150-200 million per year," he failed to provide details would back the claim. Instead, he offered an overview of the antiquities trafficking pipeline, explaining how ISIS maintains an antiquities division that is "part of the so-called ministry for control of natural resources within the group’s 'government.'" He remarked that "individuals in possession of a written permit stamped by this 'department' are permitted by the Islamists to carry out excavations and to remove and transport excavated items." Such claims match those made by the US government last year.

"The antiquities are ... offered to collectors from various countries," ambassador Churkin commented, "generally through Internet auction sites," several of which he plainly singled out. The wrongdoers, he said, "employ concealment measures, such as IP-address spoofing, which makes it difficult to identify and determine the actual location of the seller."

Ambassador Churkin's statements have not been verified by an independent third party. Nevertheless, collectors of cultural heritage objects should continue to exercise reasonable caution during this time of conflict in Syria by steering clear of archaeological objects that potentially originate from the region.

The map marks the location of Gaziantep, a crossroads of antiquities trafficking according to Ambassador Churkin.
Text copyrighted 2016 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, and museum risk management. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of any blog post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a service of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Two Art and Cultural Property Law Programs You Should Attend

Where can I learn more about cultural heritage law? CHL readers will want to take advantage of two upcoming opportunities that dive into the world of art and cultural property law.

Don’t miss Looted Art and Cultural Property: Current Controversies, Future Resolutions, a program sponsored by the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation and Fordham Art Law Society. The all-day symposium will be held on March 25 at Fordham University Law School in New York City. The event hopes to spark serious discussions about the importance of protecting cultural heritage.

Panelists include leading professionals such as Attorney Leila Amineddoleh, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos, Attorney Pierre Ciric, the Getty Trust’s Dr. James Cuno, Dr. Brian Daniels of UPenn, Attorney Kate Fitz Gibbon, Attorney Lawrence Kaye, Attorney Thomas Kline, the Antiquities Coalition’s Deborah Lehr, Attorney Howard N. Spiegler, and many more.

Registration and more information about the program can be found here.

Abbey of San Galgano, Province of Siena
And who wouldn’t want to study the relationship between international law, art law, and cultural property law ... in Italy! That is why Tulane Law School’s summer program in Siena should interest many law students.

Featuring the expertise of Dr. Patty Gerstenblith—chair of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee and director of the Center for Art, Museum and Cultural Heritage Law at DePaul College of Law—Tulane's Institute for International Law, Cultural Heritage and the Arts will start May 29 and end June 23.

Learn more about the Tulane program here.

Photo credit: Luca Biagiotti  / freeimages.com

Text copyrighted 2016 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, and museum risk management. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of any blog post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a service of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Prosecutors, Detector Dogs, and Laws: 6 Law Enforcement Recommendations to Combat Transnational Cultural Heritage Trafficking

Transnational cultural heritage trafficking thrives on an opaque art and antiquities market. Attractive features of this marketplace include discretion surrounding business transactions, easy creation of shell corporations, the high probability that smuggled imports won't be detected, clever mechanisms to move money, infrequent prosecutions of traffickers, and limited regulatory resources.

Police and prosecutors need additional tools to build capacity, spot contraband, and capture the criminals. Here are six recommendations.

#1  Specialized federal prosecutors

At least two federal prosecutors should be assigned to focus exclusively on cultural heritage trafficking. One might be placed in the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington , DC and another in the criminal division at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, the heart of America's art and antiquities marketplace.

Only federal prosecutors have authority to prosecute federal felony crimes like importing goods illegally or falsifying import paperwork, crimes which are typically part of antiquities trafficking.

While there have been several commendable cases where federal authorities have seized contraband antiquities and sent them back to their country of origin--particularly in New York City--few have resulted in criminal convictions. This "seize and send" policy must mature into an "investigate and indict" objective, where authorities hold individuals accountable through convictions and criminal penalties. Otherwise thieves, smugglers, fences, and their accomplices will continue to experience no specific deterrence or general deterrence that the criminal justice system uses to curb criminal conduct.

Already the seizure and forfeiture of cultural property in federal court depends on a U.S. Attorney proving that a criminal statue was violated. So it only makes sense that the individuals who commit the underlying crime should be prosecuted too. Once cultural objects are sent away to their country of origin through the seizure and forfeiture process, there is no case left to prosecute because the primary evidence has been sent away, an outcome that occurred even in a case where investigators suspected terrorist financing.

Without federal prosecutions, U.S. attorneys fail to develop the trial or investigative skills needed to uncover and describe to juries criminal networks and their subtle money trails, clandestine trafficking routes, and shell corporations used to move contraband cultural property into the American marketplace.

Specialized prosecutors would be expected to work together to support Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI, which in turn would sharpen prosecutors' white collar crime skills to help guide investigations, craft search warrants, present cases before grand juries, and try cases in the courtroom. The art and cultural property theft cases successfully handled by the team of former Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Goldman and former FBI Special Agent Robert Wittman serve as an illustration. Roger Atwood's Stealing History tells some of their stories.

#2  State prosecutions

Matthew Bogdanos, a prosecutor at the New York County District Attorney’s Office, is pioneering efforts to apply state law to cultural property crimes. One example is the conviction he secured in the case of People v. Aaron Freedman. Manager of Subhash Kapoor's Art of the Past gallery in New York City, Freedman pleaded guilty in 2013 to felony conspiracy and five counts of felony criminal possession of stolen property. But we need more state prosecutors focused on these types of crimes.

While federal law has jurisdiction over illegal import cases, state law is best used to prosecute sellers of stolen cultural property. Since 2005, CHL’s author has discussed how district and county attorneys--who generally have lots of experience prosecuting property cases--may rely on state receiving stolen property statutes to target culpable sellers of cultural heritage objects.

Every state has enacted a receiving stolen property statute in some form, and these laws generally prohibit a person from selling, transporting, or receiving stolen property. State receiving stolen property laws are fundamentally similar to the National Stolen Property Act (NSPA), the federal statute that outlaws different forms of theft. But many states' laws give distinct advantages to district and county attorneys, allowing them to more easily hold dirty dealers accountable.

For example, over two-thirds of state laws require lower mental states. Where the NSPA requires proof that a criminal defendant had full knowledge that a cultural object was stolen, most state laws only require proof that the offender should know, had reason to know, had reason to believe, or simply believed that the property in a dealer's possession or offered for sale was stolen or probably stolen. A federal prosecutor would need to prove that a dealer actually knew an object was stolen, but a state prosecutor may simply need to prove that a dealer had reason to believe that an artifact had been stolen, which is a much lower legal burden.

More importantly, almost one quarter of the states have a built-in legal assumption that a dealer in goods is presumed to know an object was stolen when (a) the dealer did not reasonably gather information about whether the good was lawfully sold or delivered to the dealer, (b) acquired the good far below reasonable value, or (c) purchased or sold the good outside the regular course of business. New York Penal Law § 165.55(2) is an apt example: "A … person in the business of buying, selling or otherwise dealing in property who possesses stolen property is presumed to know that such property was stolen if he obtained it without having ascertained by reasonable inquiry that the person from whom he obtained it had a legal right to possess it."

In New York, like in other states, it is no defense that somebody else stole the property or that the property was stolen from out of state. And states, for the most part, don't require the stolen property to be valued at $5,000 or more, in contrast to the federal NSPA statute.

All these legal advantages give district and county prosecutors an edge to hold antiquities and other cultural property dealers accountable when a crime has been committed.

#3  Detector dog research

Detector dogs that could sniff out smuggled cultural heritage objects, particularly archaeological artifacts, certainly would help customs agents at U.S. ports of entry.

Huge numbers of commodities pore across America's borders each day. For customs agents to spot illicit art, antiquities, and collectibles arriving by cargo ship or air freight among the countless illegal drugs, guns, bird feathers, mangos, jellyfishes, seeds, counterfeit NFL jerseys, and the like can be overwhelming. Remember too that their highest priority is intercepting radiological, biological, and other explosives before they can cripple the homeland. That is why cultural property detector dogs could prove useful.

Sniffer dogs already have demonstrated their worth to U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents by detecting pests and illegal agricultural goods. That is why research must be undertaken to see if detector dogs can be trained to identify smuggled antiquities and other cultural objects. Preliminary inquiries by Red Arch in consultation with relevant experts suggests that such a research project is worthwhile.

#4  Recordkeeping laws

When a healthy trade becomes a black market temptation for stolen and smuggled cultural heritage, new recordkeeping laws could assist prosecutors and police. These laws would require dealers, galleries, and auction houses to record the identities and transactions of suppliers and buyers of cultural property while upholding legitimate business privacy interests. See the detailed proposal here.

When pawn shops became magnets for stolen property, states overwhelmingly passed recordkeeping laws to help police as well as crime victims. States similarly passed scrap metal recordkeeping rules when stolen copper and aluminum flooded the marketplace. For banks, the USA Patriot Act enacted another kind of recordkeeping rule called Know Your Customer, which helps identify money launderers, terrorist financiers, and foreign corrupt practices within the financial industry. In like manner, law enforcement should have access to business records that would help uncover perpetrators of cultural heritage trafficking.

#5  Enhanced AML/CTF statutes

To zero in on untraceable shell corporations, laundered money, and terror financing associated with cultural heritage trafficking, existing anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing laws (AML/CTF) need to be enhanced to include the cultural property market.

Current statutes are designed to root out criminal exploitation of highly susceptible commercial and financial industries. Yet the marketplace for art, antiquities, fossils, ancient coins, and other cultural property remain absent from this list.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the seminal inter-governmental organization focused on AML/CTF, specifically identifies illicit trafficking of cultural goods, counterfeiting of antiquities, and the illegal trade of antiquities as facilitators of money laundering and terrorist financing. Moreover, the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Office of Anti-Crime Programs specifically refers to "art dealers" when  discussing AML/CTF  objectives. The Basel Art Trade Guidelines also point out, "Far more serious than shady dealings in a legal gray area, the sector’s shadow economy encompasses issues ranging from looted art, professional counterfeiting and fake certificates to the use of art sales for the purpose of money laundering.

Pawnbrokers, car dealers, dealers in precious metals and jewels, travel agents, and other NBFI's (non-bank financial institutions) are identified by AML/CTF laws as industries where criminals are known to clandestinely move large amounts of money or discreetly convert cash into high value goods. But the art and antiquities marketplace is not included in the Bank Secrecy Act, the USA Patriot Act, and other AML/CTF statutes. This needs to change.

An additional legislative change is needed to expose cultural property smugglers who set up a myriad shell corporations to discreetly hide their business operations. They create untraceable companies that only exist on paper and whose officers remain unknown, or they use layers of shell corporations to transfer cultural contraband through a maze of paper trails to throw off investigators.

One proposal currently wending its way through the U.S. Senate seeks a solution. The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act (S. 1269 and similar companion bills) calls on the Department of Homeland Security to assign a single registration number to an importers of record. That way importers can't set up multiple import companies to hide their identities or their trade activities.

[Sidebar: Setting up a separate, companion corporation is not per se illegal. But hiding illegal business transactions in a shell corporation is not. Cases involving "Bactrian Global Enterprises" and Nimbus Import Export are two examples where separate corporations were maintained. Were they for legitimate reasons or not?]

#6  Adding the cultural property market to attorneys’ general consumer protection watch lists

Cultural property crimes impact consumers who may pay substantial amounts for ancient Greek vases, Egyptian sculptures, and similar cultural heritage objects. The objects might be looted, stolen, or smuggled, or they might be fakes. Because cultural property markets contain a number of recently surfaced artifacts without documented collecting histories, or with thinly veiled collecting histories, or with entirely false histories, consumers risk purchasing illegal or fake heritage objects. That is why state attorneys general should instruct their consumer protection divisions to be watchful.

Attorneys general typically enforce laws that protect consumers against deceptive, unfair, unconscionable, and/or unlawful business practices, and they are endowed with civil and criminal legal tools to investigate illegal misconduct by a particular company or by an entire industry.

New York General Business Law § 349(a) is one statutory example that proclaims, "Deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any business, trade or commerce or in the furnishing of any service in this state are hereby declared unlawful." Executive Law § 63(12) gives the Empire State's attorney general power to investigate and issue subpoenas, even in cases where there was no actual intent to deceive. Where representations or omissions may reasonably have misled consumers, the NY attorney general can bring an action on behalf of the affected consumers.

An example of an industry-wide consumer protection investigation is NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's recent probe into abuses found within the concert and sports ticket industry. Other investigations might focus instead on a single business. Oftentimes, state attorneys general will partner each other and/or with federal consumer protection agencies to confront systematic problems that are widespread.

So when the National Association of Attorneys General meets this month, its Consumer Protection Committee should add the cultural property market to its watch list.

Photo credits: Pixabay / David Mark, Freeimages.com / Marc Dorsett, Freeimages.com / Joe Zlomec, Freeimages.com / dgood007, Freeimages.com / Bob Smith, Pixabay / Edward Lich

Text copyrighted 2016 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, and museum risk management. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of any blog post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a service of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Senate Committee Rejects Cultural Property Czar; Supports Restrictions on Syrian Antiquities

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee met last week to consider the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (H.R. 1493). It favorably reported the measure for full consideration by the senate, but rejected the legislation's creation of a cultural property czar.

The original bill passed by the House of Representatives last June called for the appointment of an Assistant Secretary of State as the new United States Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection. The senate committee stripped this position from H.R. 1493 in a comprehensive substitute amendment that members adopted last Thursday. Generally speaking, a substitute amendment makes substantive changes to a bill and replaces significant portions of an original bill's language.

The idea for a cultural property czar first emerged in similar legislation introduced in the House in 2014. But the substitute amendment instead recommends "that the President should establish an interagency coordinating committee to coordinate and advance the efforts of the executive branch to protect and preserve international cultural property at risk." Because the amendment's language declares that "the President should" rather than "the President shall", the White House is not obligated to form the interagency committee should the measure be enacted into law.

The substitute amendment suggests that the interagency committee be chaired by an assistant secretary at the State Department and that it work to protect and preserve international cultural property, prevent and disrupt looting and trafficking, protect sites of cultural and archaeological significance, and provide for the lawful exchange of international cultural property.

The substitute amendment calls on the President to provide annual reports, over a six year period, about "the efforts of the executive branch ... to protect and preserve international cultural property, including whether an interagency coordinating committee ... has been established and, if such a committee has been established, a description of the activities undertaken by such committee, including a list of the entities participating in such activities." Senators added a specific provision so that the White House would describe "actions to implement and enforce ... the Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act of 2004 ... including measures to dismantle international networks that traffic illegally in cultural property."

The Foreign Relations Committee embraced the second crucial part of H.R. 1493's original language, calling for emergency import protections to be placed on at-risk Syrian cultural property within 90 days of the law's passage, as opposed to the 120 days sought by the House. According to the senate committee's substitute amendment, import restrictions would be placed on Syrian archaeological and ethnological material under authority granted by the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA), "without regard to whether Syria is a State Party" to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The CPIA is the federal law that implements key terms of the 1970 UNESCO Convention in the United States.
Photo credit: Rabi Samuel

Text copyrighted 2016 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, and museum risk management. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of any blog post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a service of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

MoUs: Italy Renewed; Egypt Still Pursued; Cambodia and Belize Get a CPAC Interlude

United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Treasury Department have promulgated rules, effective today, that extend import restrictions on archaeological material originating from Italy.

First erected by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the U.S. and Italy in 2001 and subsequently refreshed in 2006, 2011, and now 2016, the import barriers seek to deter cultural property looting and trafficking by denying entry to endangered pre-Classical, Classical, and Imperial Roman artifacts bound for the American marketplace.

The import barriers result from Italy's request for American assistance pursuant to Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

Under import regulations authorized by the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA), certain categories of 9th century B.C. through 4th century A.D. antiquities, armor, mosaics, jewelry, sculpture, and other archaeological material from Italy may be seized by CPB if trafficked across the U.S. border. The designated list of objects subject to the legal restrictions can be found here.

Italy asked for the latest MoU renewal in February 2015, and the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) met in April last year to weigh the matter. The renewal process concluded within a usual time frame. By contrast, Egypt's first and only request for an MoU with the U.S. seems to have stalled without explanation.

Egypt asked CPAC to consider enacting protective import measures in April 2014, attracting a variety of public comments from preservationists, ancient coin collectors, the Association of Art Museum Directors, and other stakeholders. Yet despite CHL's admonitions in June 2011 and July 2013 for emergency legislation to protect at-risk Egyptian material, followed by a call in March 2014 to implement CPIA import restrictions "with all deliberate speed," import regulations covering ancient Egyptian artifacts still have not been approved.

CPAC, meanwhile, will be meeting in executive session next month for an interim review of MoUs covering jeopardized archaeological material from Cambodia and Belize, both approved in 2013. Public comments will be solicited at a later date should either agreement be considered for extension.

Photo credit: Matthew Strickland

Text copyrighted 2016 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, and museum risk management. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of any blog post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a service of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Making a Difference: SAFE Founder Cindy Ho Awarded AIA's Outstanding Public Service Award

Indifference is a word unknown to Cindy Ho. A graphic designer and independent professional, Ms. Ho created Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE) in 2003 in an effort to stop the destruction of humanity's heritage. She took action in direct response to looters ransacking the Iraqi national museum.

SAFE founder Cindy Ho
"We're dealing with a global problem that's fueled by the black-market antiquities trade," Ms. Ho announced soon after SAFE started. "It's important to inform the general public that our collective cultural heritage is in danger."

For her distinguished accomplishments and unwavering resolve, the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) last week conferred its prestigious Outstanding Public Service Award on Ms. Ho during a ceremony held at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco, California.

"To know and not to act is not to know," she exhorted, quoting Chinese philosopher Wang Yangming, inspiring ceremony attendees to apply their collective knowledge to protect cultural heritage.

Ms. Ho's energy and perseverance propelled SAFE to become the preeminent grassroots organization dedicated to preserving the past through public awareness. During her leadership, spanning the time of its founding through 2014, SAFE spearheaded widely popular projects such as
  • the annual Global Candlelight Vigil, commemorating the looting of the Iraq Museum;
  • the Say Yes campaigns, rallying public support for import controls to protect endangered archaeological artifacts;
  • the Beacon Awards, honoring notable defenders of cultural heritage; and
  • social media messaging and podcasts, making the world of antiquities trafficking familiar to everyday Americans.
A lasting legacy of Ms. Ho's endeavors has been a new generation of cultural property professionals and stakeholders--including archaeologists, museum personnel, conservators, auction house employees, and collectors--who are keenly aware of archaeological site looting and antiquities smuggling.

In her acceptance speech, the SAFE founder celebrated this notable change over the last thirteen years, declaring that "others are paying attention in a significant way."

But much more needs to be done because what hasn't changed, Ms. Ho warned, is "the no questions asked antiquities trade is still the incentive for looting and destruction." With a call for greater action resounding in her voice, she asked, "How can we possibly tell our children and our children's children that the connection to their past is no longer possible because it has been sold off....?"

Former Director General of the National Museum of Iraq and a past professor at Stony Brook University in New York, the late Dr. Donny George Youkhannahailed SAFE’s work several years ago as "critical ... for the heritage of mankind," and declared, "All those who enjoy the benefits of democracy have a duty to stand up and support those actions that will stop the destruction of history.”

Cindy Ho, in fact, stood up to secure the future of archaeology, history, and culture. Because she did so, SAFE's architect demonstrated how one citizen can make a world of difference.

It is no surprise then that the AIA last Thursday praised Ms. Ho's "tireless efforts in raising public awareness about the need to safeguard archaeological heritage."

The AIA boasts over 200,000 members and is North America's largest and oldest archaeological society, chartered by Congress in 1906. Its public service award is presented annually to a recipient who makes exceptional contributions to archaeology and the preservation of the archaeological record.

Text copyrighted 2016 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, and museum risk management. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of any blog post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a service of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

"Antiques" from Iraq: Trade Stats Raise Questions

Iraq has been identified as a source of conflict antiquities, which is why the International Council of Museums refreshed its Red List of endangered Iraqi cultural property in June 2014 and why the United Nations Security Council last February unanimously adopted a resolution targeting heritage trafficking in the region as a source of terror funding.

With this in mind, it is surprising that “antiques" ranked as the #4 declared import to the United States from Iraq by value in 2014, the latest date for which complete data is available from the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC). In fact, there were more antiques imported from Iraq than goods like lambskin leather, dates and figs, fruit juices, and even spices.

Totaling $3,378,296 in general customs value, these antique imports “of an age exceeding 100 years” were outpaced in value only by America’s largest and most predictable import from Iraq, namely crude oil (#1) and non-crude oil (#2), as well as reimports of various articles originally exported from the U.S. (#3).

Importers of record are legally responsible for declaring goods on customs entry forms by supplying information such as proper value, correct country of origin, accurate Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) classification, and complete product description. Of course there are many examples of traffickers who try to skirt their obligations in an effort to smuggle cultural heritage objects into the U.S. illegally, which is why antiques imports from Iraq should be scrutinized.

It is not known how many legal or illegal antiquities importers brought into the U.S. from Iraq last year. What is known is that declared imports of  "antiques" classified under HTS 9706 originated from a war zone where cultural heritage is in jeopardy. What commodities were exactly shipped to American ports of entry and why, in fact, did the bulk of declared HTS 9706 commodities originating from Iraq--$3,330,619 worth--get shipped to New York City remains a mystery, at least for now.

Were these imports deliberately misclassified to plausibly conceal illegally dug-up ancient tablets, foundation cones, sculptures, and more? Possibly. Or did a legal trade in vintage trays and antique coffee pots actually spike for some reason because of the conflict? Customs officials should find out for certain, particularly given the identified threat posed to archaeological site looting and museum and storehouse theft as a result of the unrest in Iraq.

There is another interesting observation. Among the 37 kinds of commodities imported into the U.S. from Iraq in 2014, antiques, together with with three other types of goods categorized under the broad import category of HTS 97 Works of Art, Collectors’ Pieces and Antiques, exceeded all other imports by value of primary Iraqi origin, except oil. The declared value of the HTS 97 commodities together totaled $3,554,595. So customs officials should also find out what goods importers actually classified as collections and collectors’ pieces of historical, archaeological, or numismatic interest under HTS 9705; as original sculptures and statuary under HTS 9703; and as paintings under HTS 9701.

One armed group operating in both Iraq and Syria is the terror organization ISIS, which reportedly has exploited cultural property as an important revenue stream. Suspiciously, the #1 U.S. category of imports by value from Syria in 2014 was “Antiques.” And now USITC trade data show that American imports from Iraq unveil further red flags.

Until the fighting subsides, and until customs officials learn more about the unanswered questions swirling around American imports of Iraqi cultural heritage goods, collectors would be well-advised not to buy heritage material from the region, or at least exercise rigorous due diligence when buying, in order to steer clear of acquiring potential ISIS loot.

Photo credit: Sam LeVan

Copyright notice: Although the data presented here is sourced from publicly available information, it is an original work of authorship that has been carefully selected, coordinated, arranged, and analyzed so that it is an original work of authorship subject to copyright protection as a compilation and/or a derivative work by CHL. The publication, retransmission, or broadcast of this compiled data is strictly prohibited without CHL's express consent.

Text copyrighted 2016 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, and museum risk management. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of any blog post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a service of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"Antiques" from Syria: U.S. Cultural Property Import Stats Raise Suspicion

Imports of Syrian goods into the United States have fallen dramatically since war broke out in the Mideast nation in 2011 and since the White House expanded the Syria Sanctions Program. Yet, despite the decline in U.S. imports from Syria, there are now disquieting trade statistics from 2014--the most recent complete data available--that should stir the attention of customs officials, police, and policymakers concerned about looted archaeology, stolen mosaics, and illicitly excavated coins trafficked illegally into the U.S.

Overall, America imported about $429.3 million worth of declared goods from Syria in 2010. Last year, that total collapsed to roughly $12.4 million, a stark decline over the five year period.

Moving in the opposite direction for a period of time were U.S. imports of antiques over 100 years old from Syria, which spiked to $11 million in 2013, a spectacular 133% increase in declared customs value over the previous year. While this figure noticeably fell last year to roughly $4.9 million, the value is similar to the $4.7 million worth of imported antiques recorded in 2012.

The 2014 statistic on antiques is striking because the five year trend line for imports of Syrian antiques failed to fade to black like other U.S. imports of Syrian goods. Instead, as the graphic above demonstrates, antiques constituted a decidedly large slice of the American import pie last year. They accounted for a whopping 40% of the value of all imports of every kind from Syria. In fact, goods classified by importers as Antiques of an Age Exceeding 100 Years under Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) 9706 were the #1 import into the U.S. from Syria. There simply was no other import category that ranked higher in value than antiques, including the #2 import of Syrian anise and cumin seeds and juniper berries classified under HTS 0909.

Notably, every Syrian import classified as an HTS 9706 antique was shipped to the customs district of New York City, the location of one of the largest and most important art and antiquities markets in the world.

What we do not know is what kind of objects these "antiques" were. They may have been at-risk archaeological objects like cuneiform tablets or ancient pottery, deliberately mislabeled by smugglers as being "of an age exceeding 100 years." Customs officials need to find out.

Enforcement officials also need to investigate the #3 American import from Syria in 2014, commodities classified by a code smugglers might use to disguise imports of ancient mosaics. Mosaics, of course, are architectural features made of stone, glass, and/or ceramic. They are spotlighted in the International Council of Museum's Emergency Red List of Syrian cultural property, which is why the import of $1.4 million worth of HTS 6802 goods--11% of the total value of all Syrian imports to the U.S.--is concerning. HTS 6802 is intended to cover worked monumental or building stone; mosaic cubes of natural stone; and artificially colored granules, chippings and powder of natural stone. Yet the code may have been used by traffickers to unlawfully classify 5th century mosaics.

Together,  the declared imports of HTS 9706 and HTS 6802 goods accounted for 51% of the total imports of all Syrian commodities by value in 2014, a striking statistic that simply cannot be overlooked by cultural property watchers focused on spotting trafficked heritage objects that may have illegally piggybacked on legitimate international trade.

Classified by HTS 9705 and amounting to approximately $303,000, collections of historical and archaeological material of Syrian origin was the #5 import by value in 2014. This number was almost a triple increase from the $118,000 imported the year before.

Looking deeper into this trade category, we find that the bulk of HTS 9705 imports from Syria to the United States consisted of Numismatic (Collectors') Coins, Except Gold, classified by HTS 9705.00.0060, having a declared import value of approximately $265,000, which was a quarter of a million dollar jump from the exiguous value of $12,064 declared in 2013. Just like imports of Syrian antiques, every Syrian collectors' coin declared under this HTS category went through the New York City customs district. Were these coins ancient Roman, Byzantine, or Islamic like the ones identified on the Red List? Customs enforcement officials need to find out.

Given the reasonable articulable suspicion that Syrian cultural contraband may be moving to the U.S. through ordinary channels of international trade, police and customs investigators are justified in scrutinizing import paperwork and asking detailed questions of importers and customs brokers that will confirm or dispel this suspicion. To protect cultural heritage in jeopardy, to defend against money laundering, and to protect against terror financing in Syria, it is vital to know exactly what cultural property has been shipped to the U.S. from Syria under the HTS 9705, 9706, and 6802 classifications and why heritage goods makes up such a large portion of imported Syrian commodities.
Data source: CHL compiled, arranged, and assessed the import figures presented here using raw data collected by the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

Copyright notice: Although the data presented here is sourced from publicly available information, it is an original work of authorship that has been carefully selected, coordinated, arranged, and analyzed so that it is an original work of authorship subject to copyright protection as a compilation and/or a derivative work by CHL. The publication, retransmission, or broadcast of this compiled data is strictly prohibited without CHL's express consent.

Note: Import data is reported to U.S. Customs and Border Protection by the owner, purchaser, or licensed broker of the consignee. They file the entry documents, not the customs officials who are unable to inspect and document every cargo shipment. So whether cultural commodities are properly classified as HTS 9705 archaeological material or HTS 9706 antiques is the responsibility of the importer. In fact whether imports are falsely classified so that they can be smuggled across the border or whether they are mistakenly classified because of an error in judgment is a function of the importing party. The import classification process is a self-reporting system, part of a shared compliance program overseen by U.S. Customs that obliges the trade community to regulate itself and follow federal law. Shared compliance allows the U.S. to competitively engage the world in global commerce. Smugglers, nevertheless, will try to exploit gaps and loopholes.
Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, and museum risk management. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of any blog post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a service of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Museum Raids Cases: Rare Antiquities. Rare Convictions for Gallery Owners. Rare Prison Sentence.

In the annals of cultural property law, prosecutions targeting transnational antiquities trafficking networks are rare. Even more rare are felony convictions. Scarcer still are prison sentences.

So what happened this week to a pair of California gallery owners tied in with the "Museum Raids" cases is a momentous achievement, an example of careful and intelligent case development by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California, resulting in felony convictions for antiquities traffickers rather than a "seize and send" photo-op that cultural property watchers are accustomed to witnessing.

Jonathan and Carolyn Markell, aged 70 and 68 and owners of Silk Roads Design Gallery, were sentenced on Monday for their role in an elaborate scheme that mixed international heritage trafficking with tax evasion.

Calling the crime "significant," United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson said it was “important to send a message” to art collectors, gallery owners and museums that they should avoid collecting and trading looted antiquities.

The court handed down an 18 month prison term to Jonathan Markell on a felony count of conspiring to import goods using false statements in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (conspiracy) and 18 U.S.C. § 542 (importing goods using false statements). His wife, Carolyn, received a sentence of probation on a felony charge of conspiracy to commit tax evasion pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 371. Jonathan Markell also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit tax evasion.

“Mr. Markell’s greed placed his art gallery’s profits above the culture and heritage of the people of Thailand,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker in a press release.

There were no complaints about the court's 1 1/2 year sentence, even though prosecutors sought a 2 ½ year prison term for Jonathan Markell because, in prosecutors' words, "it is clear that Jonathan Markell has no respect for the law—not this nation's laws, nor those of other nations."

In seeking a prison term, prosecutors, notably among them Assistant U.S. Attorney and Environmental Crimes Chief Joseph Johns, sought both specific deterrence and general deterrence.

The attorneys pointed out the obvious to the court, that "it is rare that law enforcement officials have the opportunity to catch a broker, bulk sellers, or gallery owner that drives the illicit market for archeological resources." That is why, they contended,
Defendant Jonathan Markell’s antiquities smuggling case presents a unique opportunity to send a message and afford adequate deterrence to the 'upper end' of the criminal black market for looted archeological resources, i.e., the brokers and gallery owners who sell their wares to the collectors. If we are able to diminish and disincentivize the market (or demand) for illegal antiquities, then we may have an equal effect on taking the monetary incentives out of the act of looting itself. It is the market, or demand, which drives the looters at the ground level to provide the supply of stolen antiquities to meet that demand. 

Jonathan Markell’s sentence of 18 months behind bars perhaps is the most ordered by a court in a transnational antiquities trafficking case since U.S. v. Schultz, a federal case from 2002 that saw Frederick Schultz, a high profile and successful Manhattan antiquities dealer, sentenced to serve 33 months in prison after a jury found the defendant guilty of the felony of receiving stolen Egyptian antiquities that had been transported in interstate and foreign commerce in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (conspiracy) and 18 U.S.C. § 2315 (the National Stolen Property Act).

That case failed to serve as a warning to the Markells as the investigation into the husband and wife and their co-conspirators began the following year, in 2003 when a National Park Service (NPS) special agent began to uncover the trafficking network that had been smuggling archaeological material from Southeast Asia.

In January 2008, federal agents from several law enforcement agencies raided a variety of locations, including four museums in California. Police descended on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Bowers Museum, the Pacific Asia Museum, and the Mingei Museum with search warrants to “seize in place” ancient objects identified as potential evidence. Officials simultaneously seized evidence from the Markell’s home as well as their art gallery.

The museum raids generated three published criminal cases:

  • United States v. Robert Olson and Marc Pettibone, et al., which charged a conspiracy to smuggle Southeast Asian artifacts, including from Thailand and Cambodia, into the United States beginning in 2004;
  • United States v. Robert Olson and Jonathan Markell, which charged a conspiracy to smuggle Southeast Asian artifacts, including Burmese antiquities obtained in Thailand beginning in 2003; and
  • United States v. Jonathan Markell and Carolynn Markell, which charged a conspiracy to commit tax fraud by making false statements when donating smuggled artifacts to museums in an effort to receive tax deductions.
[Sidebar: At least one media report by the Pasedena Patch suggests that legal action against unnamed museums resulted in deferred prosecution agreements. These agreements do not appear in the court system’s public files. It is possible that they are held privately by the U.S. Attorney's Office and not subject to public disclosure]

The Markells pleaded guilty to criminal charges on April 16 after signing a written agreement with federal prosecutors the previous month..

As part of the deal, both defendants conceded that they conspired to knowingly and intentionally defraud the United States for the purpose of impeding, impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful government functions of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the ascertainment, computation, assessment, and collection of income taxes, by promoting and participating in a false charitable deduction scheme for the purpose of improperly claiming charitable deductions on federal income tax returns.

The Markells agreed to repatriate 337 artifacts by ocean-borne cargo to their countries of origin, specifically China, Thailand, Cambodia, and Burma; to pay the $25,000 estimated shipping cost; and to cooperate with the IRS to calculate back taxes and penalties from 2004 through 2007, estimated to be $39,891.

In a court pleading filed on December 3, attorneys for the government elaborated on the facts of the case:
In short, Jonathan and Carolyn Markell jointly owned and operated the business Markell Imports, Inc., doing business as the Silk Roads Design Gallery ("Silk Roads"). The Markells’ business model consisted of their purchase and importation of art, antiques, and archeological resources from Southeast Asia, and their resale of such merchandise through their Silk Roads art gallery in West Hollywood.

Part of their business model included the intentional use of false declarations and statements in United States Customs entry documents to “smuggle” or introduce the archeological resources “antiquities” into the United States.

The lawyers flagged a contention made by the Markells, one that is often echoed by ethically ambivalent antiquities dealers who complain that filling out customs forms is too burdensome for small business owners:
During [a police interview], Jonathan Markell stated that he and Carolyn Markell falsified the customs documents to disguise what they were importing because the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement classification process is difficult if they actually identify a piece as an "antique." Carolyn Markell agreed with her husband's statement.

The Markells further justified their behavior by claiming that United States Customs forces people to lie on import declarations because of the delay in clearing Customs if they properly identify an object as an antique.

Prosecutors added that the Markells failed to fully disclose their criminal conduct to investigators. “For example, they did not admit that Jonathan Markell had conspired with [a] co-defendant to not only falsely describe Burmese and Khmer antiquities in United States Customs import documents ... but also to falsely declare the import value of those antiquities as 25% of their true purchase price.”

The attorneys said that neither defendant “admitted ... that they knew that it was illegal to export archeological resources/antiquities from the countries of China, Thailand, and Burma—which is most likely the reason that the antiquities were falsely described in United States Customs import documentation.”

Focusing on the pairs’ systematic plan to dodge federal taxes, prosecutors noted that the operation “was heavily dependent upon the ready availability of Southeast Asian antiquities obtained ... through the antiquities smuggling scheme .... The Southeast Asian antiquities smuggled into the United States ... were bundled and sold for approximately $1,500. The[] $1,500 ‘package’ typically included antiquities from Ban Chiang, Thailand, false sales invoices to reflect an earlier sales date, along with a fraudulently inflated $5,000 appraisal that contained a fraudulent expert's signature.”

Prosecutors called the defendants' conduct a “complete contempt for this Nation's rule of law," spotlighting "Carolyn Markell's discussion of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act ("IEEPA") Burmese sanctions with the undercover agent ('UC') in this case":
During that discussion, she told the UC that she had been extremely worried about the last shipment of antiquities that she and Jonathan Markell had brought into the United States from Thailand in September 2006—which had included 7 Burmese statues. She related to the UC that the President of the United States had prohibited entry of any Burmese items into the country, and that she had lost sleep worrying that their import shipment would be intercepted by United States Customs authorities. She told the UC that she did not care about being dishonest, but that she didn’t want to get caught.

Jonathan Markell, meanwhile, “brought up a Los Angeles Daily News article about an individual that had been prosecuted for a tax evasion scheme involving antiquities and a museum," according to prosecutors. "Jonathan Markell laughed about the article, and then asked the UC if he thought that he (Jonathan Markell) was going to jail (for the tax evasion scheme). Jonathan Markell told the UC that the person who had been caught must have done something pretty stupid, and that the government was not going to look at any donation under $10,000.”

The tax scheme relied on the couples’ assumptions that customs officials would overlook mislabeled illegal shipments and that museums and collectors would fail to conduct the due diligence necessary to verify the archaeological objects’ legitimate collecting histories.

Antiquities mostly from Thailand's Ban Chiang World Heritage site were used to fuel the fraud, according to recitals found in the plea agreement, which described how Jonathan Markell “solicited co-conspirators to buy a 'charitable donation package' that included one or more Ban Chiang antiquities to be donated to a charitable institution.” Then “Silk Roads Design Gallery prepared false appraisals for donations of these antiquities to charitable institutions, such as museums and universities using another person’s name.” Jonathan Markell thereafter “contacted charitable institutions to get them to accept his, defendant Carolyn Markell’s, and his co-conspirators donations.” Specifically, prosecutors alleged:
“On or about December 26, 2003, CAROLYN MARKELL sent an email to a museum representative regarding the provenance of donated items as being a purchase in 1984.
Defendant CAROLYN MARKELL determined that she and defendant JONATHAN MARKELL would purchase items to be donated from a certain co-conspirator. Between an unknown date and January 2008, although defendant JONATHAN MARKELL knew that the seller of a donated item could not appraise the item for tax purposes, he prepared appraisals that falsely inflated the value of donation items he sold as part of a "donation package" he sold to co-conspirators. … In or about April 2007, defendant JONATHAN MARKELL advised an unindicted co-conspirator to change the listed purchase date on a museum donation form because it needed to appear that the co-conspirator had held the item for years, namely, ten years, to take the inflated value as a tax deduction. On or about March 10, 2006, defendant CAROLYN MARKELL contacted a museum curator to discuss the museum's policies and requirements. On or about June 14, 2006, defendant JONATHAN MARKELL solicited a Thailand museum curator's electronic signature which he fraudulently inserted on appraisals of items to be donated that he had prepared. ... On or about March 27, 2007, defendant JONATHAN MARKELL electronically mailed a request to the museum curator in Thailand to sign forms to support co-conspirators' charitable donation tax deductions and to sign six to eight blank forms in blue, to support fraudulently future donations. On or about December 13, 2007, JONATHAN and CAROLYN MARKELL delivered donations to a museum on behalf of a client. Around December 2007, defendant JONATHAN MARKELL donated Ban Chiang antiquities to a museum on behalf of co-conspirators, charging them $3,450 for the items and appraisals to support an $11,425 charitable donation income tax deduction.

Meanwhile, from 2004 through 2007, the Markells regularly donated Ban Chiang artifacts to an unidentified museum(s) and took a charitable tax deduction, “knowing the items had been stolen from the country of Thailand.”

In their steady march toward convictions and incarceration, the U.S. Attorney's Office tapped into its experience with wildlife trafficking cases—an instructive parallel to antiquities trafficking cases. Prosecutors wrote in a sentencing pleading dated Dec 3, 2015:
There are two types of archeological resource looters: (1) the looter that digs up and collects artifacts as a hobby for his or her own personal collection; and (2) the looter that digs up artifacts for the purpose of selling them to brokers or gallery operators. As with the protection of threatened and endangered wildlife species, the key to protecting and conserving archeological resources is to eliminate markets for illicit/looted antiquities. Without the existence of brokers, middlemen, and gallery owners who are willing to knowingly and intentionally profit from sales of parts and products of threatened or endangered wildlife species or looted archeological resources, there is little monetary incentive for wildlife poachers or archeological resource looters to engage in their nefarious trades.

One might be tempted to think that the archeological resource looter squatting in the deep mud and steaming jungle highlands of Ban Chiang, Thailand is primarily to blame for the devastation of pristine archeological sites and the information lost thereby—just as one might be tempted to lay the bulk of the blame for the loss of the last Northern White Rhinoceros at the feet of the poacher who killed it; but that line of thinking is incorrect. It is individuals such as Jonathan Markell ... the importers, the buyers, and the gallery owners who purchase and acquire such archeological resources or wildlife products for profitable resale who are primarily to blame for the underlying devastation. For these are the individuals who create the markets that create the monetary incentives that drive the poachers and looters into the fields.

The government's lawyers thereby laid the groundwork to argue for a prison term, “to reflect that seriousness and to promote respect for the law and to provide just punishment for the offense."

Meanwhile, they made the important point that “[a]rcheological resources are non-renewable. The looting of archeological resources causes widespread destruction of archeological sites and results in the loss of archeological information which would be gleaned from a properly excavated site."

They informed the court as well about the enormous impact of cultural plundering on the Thai people. “Many villages throughout Southeast Asia have been deprived of the opportunity to grow an economy based on archeological tourism because their heritage and archeological resources have been devastated by looting activity to supply to the purveyors of 'stolen time,' such as defendant Jonathan Markell."

Prosecutors poignantly added, "Criminal conduct, like that committed by defendant Jonathan Markell in this case, serves to deprive individuals from other countries of their own distinctive histories and heritages—in essence stealing not just their antiquities, but their 'time and history."

Two witnesses reinforced these arguments when they testified this week at the sentencing hearing. One witness was the NPS agent who investigated the case, and the other was archaeologist Dr. Joyce White, director of the Ban Chiang Project housed at the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

Dr. White analyzed more than 10,000 artifacts, mostly from Thailand, which police obtained through Operation Antiquity, the code name used by NPS, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, and IRS Criminal Investigation for the Museum Raids investigation.

In a court Declaration, Dr. White made clear that antiquities exported from Thailand generally require a permit from the Thai Fine Arts Department. But, remarkably, she only saw one or two samples of antiquities where a permit actually had been obtained despite the thousands of samples examined.

Dr. White also noted that most of the artifacts were found intact, indicating that they had been illegally dug-up. “Intact artifacts are rare in archaeological sites and tend to come from human burials,” which would require “large scale excavations.”

The prison term and felony convictions imposed by Judge Pregerson this week are hoped to decrease the incentive to industrially excavate overseas archaeological sites overseas and to deter smuggling of contraband cultural property into the American marketplace.

More details about the cases can be found on Jason Felch's Chasing Aphrodite blog and at Trafficking Culture.

Photo credits: William Schenold and Kiwiodyse

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, and museum risk management. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of any blog post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a service of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.