Thursday, May 21, 2015

Culture Under Threat Conference in Cairo: Red Arch Raises Important Questions Posed by U.S. Imports of Art, Collectors' Pieces, and Antiques

Why did the declared value of U.S. general imports of antiques over 100 years old from Syria climb 133% between 2012 and 2013, from approximately $4.7 million to $11 million?

Why did the declared value of U.S. general imports of antiques over 100 years old from Iraq skyrocket 1302% between 2009 and 2013, from $322,564 to $4,523,126?

These were some of the questions posed by Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research at an historic international summit held in Cairo on May 13 and 14.

Antiquities Coalition co-founder and Red Arch board member Peter Herdrich
(far left) stands with delegates and organizers of the Cultural Property Under Threat conference.

Antiquities Coalition Chair Deborah Lehr (7th from right) spearheaded the historic gathering.
Titled Culture Under Threat and cooperatively organized by the Washington, D.C.-based Antiquities Coalition and the Middle East Institute, the conference featured government ministers from ten nations. Together, they signed the Cairo Declaration, a document proposed by Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty, calling for:
  • the establishment of a high-level task force to coordinate regional and international efforts against cultural heritage trafficking,
  • the creation of a public awareness campaign against the black market trade, and
  • the formation of an independent center to combat antiquities laundering.

Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates proffered the Declaration in the wake of widespread plunder and destruction of archaeological, historical, and religious treasures located in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

“Criminal networks and terrorist groups have systematically looted historic sites and profited from the sales of these antiquities in international black markets,” the government ministers decried. They further denounced the sale of “blood antiquities,” which help fund ISIS and other terror groups.

In light of the extensive cultural heritage looting in the MENA region and because transnational commodities traffickers have been known to penetrate complex trade systems in order to turn contraband into cash, international trade data presented by Red Arch Research sparked important discussions among conference participants. The data highlighting U.S. imports of nondescript antiques from war-torn Syria and Iraq may prompt law enforcement and customs authorities to confirm or dispel any suspicions raised by the numbers.

Additional questions posed by the trade data include:

Why did the declared value of U.S. general imports of archaeological, historical, or ethnographic pieces from Egypt jump 105.5%, from approximately $5.2 million in 2012 to $10.7 million in 2013, which made Egypt the #2 source of such commodities by value behind the United Kingdom at $11.4 million?

Why did the declared value of U.S. general imports of archaeological, historical, or ethnographic goods from Lebanon spike 4,483%, from $6,546 in 2012 to $300,000 in 2013?

Why did the declared value of U.S. general imports of collectors’ coins (excluding gold coins) surge
- 82% from Turkey, from approximately $1.7 million in 2012 to $3 million in 2013?
- 417% from Lebanon, from $54,651 in 2012 to $282,434 in 2013?
- 2,604% from Libya, from $4,793 in 2012 to $129,620 in 2013?

UN Office of Drugs and Crime Regional Representative
Masood Karimipour listens as Red Arch Director Rick St. Hilaire
addresses the Cairo conference delegates.

Smugglers have been known to over-value or under-value invoices to disguise money transfers—a practice called trade based money laundering. Criminals also have been known to create shell import and export companies to hide the origins and transfers of illegally trafficked cultural goods. In past years, the CHL blog has chronicled cases where traffickers surreptitiously described Hindu sculptures as "handicrafts” on customs forms, affixed "Made in Thailand" stickers on ancient Ban Chiang pots to make them appear modern, manipulated the description of a Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton from Mongolia as a fossil reptile from Great Britain on import paperwork, or falsely declared ancient Egyptian artifacts as “original sculptures and statuary” from Turkey, the UAE, and other nations. These cases illustrate the Basel Art Trade Guidelines (2012) warning that:
In comparison with other trade sectors, the art market faces a higher risk of exposure to dubious trade practices. This is due to the volume of illegal or legally questionable transactions, which is noticeably higher in this sector than in other globally active markets. Far more serious than shady dealings in a legal grey 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.
Because the legal art and antiquities marketplace nurtures opacity, placing excessive emphasis on discretion over transparency, a black market temptation exists among smugglers, fences, and launderers to hide drops of illegally acquired goods deep within the sea of legitimate commerce. And the sea is vast. Declared American imports of art, collectors’ pieces, and antiques alone totaled over $9 billion in 2013, crowning the U.S. as the top global importer of commodities classified by this customs heading.

Answers are required to the critical questions lurking behind the import statistics: Who is importing the cultural heritage material? Who are the exporters? Exactly what “antiques,” “archaeological pieces,” and “collectors’ coins” are being shipped to the U.S.? From which archaeological sites and through what transshipment countries? And which imports are legal versus illegal? Indeed, uncovering black market trading pipelines, supply chains, and distribution networks navigating within the legitimate stream of commerce should be a key goal of the Cairo conference delegates as well as INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization, dealers and auction houses, and other stakeholders. 
________________________

Invaluable research assistance supplied by Keegan Trace Brooks, JD Candidate, Georgia State University. Data assembled by Red Arch Research from statistics collected by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission. Photos courtesy of the Antiquities Coalition.

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a service of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Cultural Property Protection Bill Reintroduced in the House

"We need to strengthen our ability to stop history's looters from profiting off their crimes," declared Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.-16) on Friday after introducing H.R. 1493, whose stated purpose is to "protect and preserve international cultural property risk due to instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, and for other purposes."

The proposed legislation is similar to a bill the lawmaker introduced last congressional session, the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (H.R. 5703), which failed to become law.

The text of the current bill is expected to be published by the Government Printing Office shortly and will be available here.

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a project of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Assyrian Head Repatriation: Filling in the Details of ICE's Investigation

This week U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) returned a looted fragmented limestone head of Assyrian King Sargon II to Iraq. The stone carving once sat atop a sculpted winged bull.

In remarks prepared for Monday's repatriation ceremony held at the Iraqi Consulate in Washington, D.C., Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security and ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña declared, “ICE will not allow the illicit greed of some to trump the cultural history of an entire nation.”

ICE offered limited details in a press release about the artifact's history. But the agency revealed that, "[a]s part of 'Operation Lost Treasure,' HSI New York special agents received information on June 30, 2008, that an antiquities dealer based in Dubai was selling looted Iraqi antiquities to dealers around the world. The special agents seized the limestone statue on Aug. 13, 2008, after it was shipped to New York by a Dubai-based antiquities trading company owned by the antiques dealer."
Assyrian limestone head fragment of Sargon II
repatriated by the U.S. to Iraq on Monday. Courtesy ICE

The press statement added that the "investigation identified a broad transnational criminal organization dealing in illicit cultural property. Some of the network’s shipments were directly linked to major museums, galleries and art houses in New York."

ICE reported that its investigation "resulted in one arrest, multiple seizures of antiquities ranging from Libya, Egypt, and Afghanistan, and the return of many of artifacts. A repatriation ceremony with Afghanistan was held two years ago and future repatriations are anticipated."

Publicly available information fills in some of the details about the trafficked head fragment.

A CHL blog post dated July 24, 2013 reported that federal prosecutors petitioned to forfeit the Assyrian head in federal court in the Southern District of New York. The complaint, filed in the case of United States v. One Iraqi Assyrian Headalleged that Dubai antiquities dealer Hassan Fazeli exported the artifact from the United Arab Emirates to the U.S. on July 30, 2008. Prosecutors, at the time, did not identify the head as a carving of Sargon II.


Rather than describing the head's country of origin as Iraq on the customs import form, prosecutors explained that Turkey improperly was listed as the country of origin. Rather than declaring the assessed value of the Sargon II head as $1.2 million, the import form incorrectly listed an amount of $6500, according to the court complaint.


Prosecutors sent notice of the forfeiture to Hassan Fazeli Trading Company in Dubai, the potential civil claimant. But after time passed without a reply, on June 17, 2014 the federal district court entered a default judgment, awarding the Assyrian sculpture to U.S. authorities with instructions that the head must be repatriated within 90 days "or as soon thereafter as conditions in Iraq permit."


The court granted an extension for the repatriation after a request made by an assistant prosecutor, who told the court that more than 90 days would be needed to return the artifact "[i]n light of [the] current state of world affairs."


The judge asked why there had been a gap between the 2008 seizure of the artifact and the 2014 forfeiture. The assistant prosecutor responded:

I am not aware of why there was. I can offer that in many cases, your Honor, where there are assets to be forfeited, sometimes there are parallel investigations, criminal matters, and sometimes the government proceeds to file criminal charges in matters and items are forfeited in connection with criminal matters. Sometimes the government decides to just proceed civilly. This is a civil complaint in which the forfeiture is purely in rem and only the item that is at issue is being forfeited.
The assistant prosecutor told the court that a confidential source informed law enforcement officials that
Mr. Fazeli ... was attempting to sell this stolen item or an item that we believe to be removed from Iraq in violation of Iraqi law and in contravention of United States regulations as well. This individual, Fazeli, tried to sell it to the CS [confidential source] and based on recorded conversations, based on an investigation by Homeland Security, eventually was able to ship it to the United States with false documentation indicating false origin, actually indicated that the item was from Turkey.
Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York named Hassan Fazeli Trading Company as a potential claimant in another forfeiture case. The civil case involved three ancient Egyptian limestone reliefs, a block statue, and a funerary boat valued at $57,000. It may be the one referred to by ICE on Monday when officials explained at the Iraqi repatriation ceremony that the investigation into the Sargon II head resulted in multiple seizures of antiquities, including from Egypt.

Docketed as U.S. v. One Ancient Egyptian Fragment Depicting Procession of Offering Bearers et al. and reported by CHL on March 23, 2013, the complaint alleged that the Egyptian archaeological material arrived in a FedEx shipment in August 2010 at Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey. The ancient objects "were sold in and exported from Dubai, UAE by Hassan Fazeli Trading Company, LLC .... [They] were purchased and imported by [Salem] Alshdaifat, by and through Holyland [Numismatics],” claimed the prosecutors.

Alshdaifat pleaded guilty in December 2012 to a misdemeanor charge of accessory after the fact in the case of U.S. v. Khouli et al and received a sentence of a $1000 fine.

At this week's ceremony repatriating the Assyrian head to Iraq, ICE referred to a previous repatriation ceremony with Afghanistan that took place two years ago. The agency has only reported two repatriations to that country around that time, so ICE officials may have been referencing an event that occurred at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C. in September 2013.

At that ceremony, federal authorities returned an ancient Roman oinochoe, three 5th century B.C. gold foil appliques, and two 17th century gold ornaments from approximately the 17th century. ICE explained in an accompanying press release:
On March 21, 2011, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the HSI New York El Dorado Task Force seized a shipment containing the gold artifacts and the ancient vase at Newark Liberty International Airport, Central Air Cargo Examination Facility, after HSI New York special agents discovered they were destined for a New York City man and later to a New York business suspected of dealing in looted cultural property. Through the investigative process, the antiquities were found to have originated in Afghanistan. On Jan. 25, 2012, the shipment was administratively forfeited.
If these artifacts from Afghanistan were tied somehow to the Assyrian sculpted head fragment from Iraq, that connection has yet to be explained by ICE.

Hopefully the federal agency will provide more complete details describing the investigation, recovery, and return of the Assyrian head fragment now that the matter has been concluded by ICE.

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a project of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Cultural Property Crime on the U.N. Agenda: Upcoming Crime Conference Set to Tackle Heritage Trafficking

When the U.N. Security Council last month adopted a resolution targeting terrorists' ability to raise money, cultural heritage trafficking took a visible spot on the global stage. Now the U.N. Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice is set to address the topic at its April meeting in Doha, Qatar.

Representatives from Qatar meet with the U.N. Office on Drugs
and Crime in preparation for the Crime Conference in April.
A pre-conference document frames the discussion for next month’s quinquennial gathering of governments and experts in criminal justice. The document cautions, “Trafficking in cultural property and related offences are believed to be a constantly growing sector of criminality, and an increasingly attractive one for national and transnational criminal organizations.”

Conference participants are expected to urge U.N. member states to embrace the International Guidelines for Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Responses with Respect to Trafficking in Cultural Property and Other Related Offences, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in October 2014.

The preamble offers straightforward explanations about why the Guidelines were written, and articulates some important clauses:
 Alarmed at the growing involvement of organized criminal groups in all forms and aspects of trafficking in cultural property and related offences, and observing that illicitly trafficked cultural property is increasingly being sold through all kinds of markets, inter alia in auctions, in particular over the Internet, and that such property is being unlawfully excavated and illicitly exported or imported with the facilitation of modern and sophisticated technologies,
…  
Reiterating the significance of cultural property as part of the common heritage of humankind and as unique and important testimony of the culture and identity of peoples and the necessity of protecting cultural property, and reaffirming in that regard the need to strengthen international cooperation in preventing, prosecuting and punishing all aspects of trafficking in cultural property[.]

The Guidelines promote prevention strategies, criminal justice policies, and methods of international cooperation to combat cultural heritage crime. They range in scope from “improving statistics on import and export of cultural property” to encouraging “the widest possible mutual legal assistance in investigations, prosecutions and judicial proceedings.”

Of significance is the Guidelines’ call to transform perceptions of heritage crime from a novelty offense to a serious criminal enterprise that demands a strong legal response. They recommend that nations
consider criminalizing, as serious offences, acts such as:(a) Trafficking in cultural property;(b) Illicit export and illicit import of cultural property;(c) Theft of cultural property (or consider elevating the offence of ordinary theft to a serious offence when it involves cultural property);(d) Looting of archaeological and cultural sites and/or illicit excavation;(e) Conspiracy or participation in an organized criminal group for trafficking in cultural property and related offences;(f) Laundering, as referred to in article 6 of the Organized Crime Convention, of trafficked cultural property.

The U.N. Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime characterizes a “serious offence” as a crime that is punishable by at least four years in prison.

Further updates about the upcoming U.N. Crime Congress may be found here.

Photo credit: United Nations

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a project of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Kapoor Idol Trafficking Conspirator Sentenced

A New York criminal court has sentenced Salina Mohamed, one of several individuals implicated in the Subhash Kapoor idol trafficking case.

Chasing Aphrodite wrote extensively about Mohamed’s case after Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos charged the defendant for her role in laundering heritage objects stolen from India.

Mohamed pleaded guilty in December 2013 to a misdemeanor charge of conspiracy in the fifth degree, which is the intent to commit a felony with one or more persons. The prosecution dropped felony charges of criminal possession of stolen property as part of a negotiated plea agreement.

Yesterday, the court handed down a sentence that consisted of a conditional discharge. The conditional discharge means that Mohamed must remain of good behavior for one year or face court-imposed sanctions.

Attorney Bogdanos is a pioneer in the prosecution of international antiquities trafficking cases under state law as opposed to federal law. He holds a masters in classical studies from Columbia University and investigated the looting of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad during his time in the military.

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a project of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Endangered Archaeology from El Salvador Protected by Renewed MoU with the United States

Maya mask subject to
renewed import restrictions
with El Salvador.
The United States has agreed to renew a bilateral agreement with El Salvador, which offers protections to cultural heritage in danger. The Central American nation is rich with history, including ancient Maya culture.

The State Department Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs has “concluded that the cultural heritage of El Salvador continues to be in jeopardy from pillage of Pre-Hispanic archaeological resources,” according to the Federal Register. As a result, the U.S. government has extended import controls on endangered archaeological material from that country through March 8, 2020. The terms are cataloged in a renewed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

Few offered comments about the MoU when the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) considered the renewal.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation (LCCHP)* backed the renewal, explaining that looting continues in El Salvador and that “numerous El Salvadoran objects that would be protected under the MOU are currently listed on ICOM’s Red List of Endangered Cultural Objects of Central America and Mexico.” LCCHP added that “El Salvador has long played an active role in safeguarding its property through legislation, enforcement, education, creation of inventories, and international cooperation.”

The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), meanwhile, opposed the MoU. In what may be a trend for the organization, the group complained that “El Salvador has benefited from more than 27 years of import restrictions by the United States and in that period … there does not appear to be a significant reduction in looting that can be linked to those restrictions.” The AAMD argued that “El Salvador is one of the best examples of why the current system of simply renewing MOUs is ineffective and inconsistent with the CPIA. The absence of a significant legitimate market in the United States for El Salvadorian Prehispanic objects has apparently had little or no effect on looting in El Salvador.”

The U.S. and El Salvador first entered a bilateral agreement—authorized by the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA)—twenty years ago, following American-imposed emergency import restrictions on endangered artifacts from the Cara Sucia region in 1987 and 1992. The MoU between the two nations has been renewed every five years since 1995.

Photo credit: U.S. Department of State
*The author is a board member of LCCHP.

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a project of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Italy Asks for MoU Renewal to Protect Cultural Heritage

The Italian government has asked the United States to renew a bilateral agreement or Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) restricting American import of archaeological artifacts in jeopardy of pillage.

The protective MoU between the two nations has been renewed twice before. The current agreement, in place since 2011, covers pre-Classical, Classical, and Imperial Roman artifacts from Italy.

The Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) will meet in public session on April 8 in Washington, DC to discuss the latest request.

To submit written comments concerning the proposed MoU, click hereComments are due to CPAC by March 20 and must relate to one, some, or all of the "four determinations" laid out by the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA). These include:

(A) whether the cultural patrimony of Italy is in jeopardy from the pillage of archaeological or ethnological materials of the State Party; 

(B) whether the Italian government has taken measures to protect its cultural patrimony; 


(C) whether the application of the import restrictions, if applied in combination with similar restrictions by other nations individually having a significant import trade in such material, would be of substantial benefit in deterring a serious situation of pillage, and whether remedies less drastic are not available; and 


(D) whether the application of the import restrictions is consistent with the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes.


Photo credit: Aculine

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a project of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & PolicyResearch, Inc.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Canadian Man Charged with Trafficking Dinosaur Fossils from China

U.S. District Court in Tucson, AZ.
A man has been arrested in Arizona for allegedly trying to sell dinosaur fossils imported from China to undercover federal agents. Jun Yang, a Canadian, faces criminal charges of archaeological smuggling and wildlife trafficking.

The charges, initiated by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), likely will be challenged by defense lawyers because of legal irregularities.

Filed on Tuesday in federal district court (15-mj-07055), the complaint alleges that the defendant
did fraudulently and knowingly offer for sale and sell merchandise, namely one Psittacosaurus fossil and  approximately 15 Hadrosaur fossil eggs, after the merchandises' importation into the United States, knowing said merchandise had been imported into  the United States contrary to law; that is, ... Jun Yang knowingly sold said merchandise knowing that they are cultural property that had been imported into the United States from the People's Republic of China contrary to law, that is specially protected fossils are prohibited  from being sold to any foreigner or foreign organization, all in violation of Title  19, United  States Code  Section  2606(a) [the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA)] and Title  18 United States Code Section 545 [the anti-smuggling law].
...
[and] did unlawfully and knowingly import in foreign commerce, transport, receive and acquire any wildlife, that is one Psittacosaurus fossil and approximately 15 Hadrosaur fossil eggs, knowing that said wildlife were taken, possessed, transported and sold in violation of the laws of the People's Republic of China. all in violation  of Title  16 United States Code. Sections 3372(a)(2)(A) and 3373(d)(l)(B) [the Lacey Act].
The CPIA, which is relied on by Count 1 in the charging document, is the federal statute that implements the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. While the 1970 UNESCO Convention’s definition of "cultural property" includes "objects of palaeontological interest," the CPIA itself only applies to archaeological and ethnological objects. Palaeontolological material--like dinosaur fossils--are not archaeological or ethnological objects by definition. And while the U.S. has signed a bilateral agreement with China that restricts the import of designated Chinese archaeological and ethnological artifacts across America's borders, that agreement does not prohibit dinosaur fossils.

Count 2 relies on the Lacey Act, a federal law designed to protect wildlife and other natural resources. Under the terms of the statute, it is illegal to import or sell designated wildlife that is taken, possessed, or sold in violation of any law, treaty or regulation of the United States. But are dinosaur fossils wildlife? While the statutory definition of "wildlife" includes a dead wild animal or an egg, would either a dinosaur fossil or dinosaur eggs actually be considered "wildlife"?

The defendant's arrest is explained by the allegations contained in the criminal complaint:
On or about February l0, 2015, in Tucson in the District of Arizona, agents of the Department of Homeland Security acting in an undercover capacity walked through the display area at [a gem and mineral show] .... Agents spoke with Mr. Yang about an item displayed and advertised as a Psittacosaurus Fossil. Mr. Yang stated the fossil was 100 to 130 million years old and from the province Henan and was "dug up" in  central  China  approximately 200-300 kilometers south of Mongolia. Mr. Yang stated the price of the Psittacosaurus Fossil was $15,000.00 (United States Currency) and was not negotiable because of the quality of the fossil. Agents heard Mr. Yang  speak with  another  customer regarding egg fossils adjacent to the Psittacosaurus fossil. Mr. Yang identified the eggs as Chinese dinosaur egg fossils  and told  the agents they were Hadrosaur  Eggs, a "duck billed" dinosaur in  China. A sign on the dinosaur egg fossils display box stated "$450.00" for each egg. 
On or about February 10, 2015, agents posing as shoppers ... again spoke with Mr. Yang about the Psittacosaurus fossil .... Mr. Yang stated that he illegally removed the fossils from China, put the fossils in containers with stone carvings, shipped them to the United States and didn't disclose that fossils were in the containers to US Customs and Border Protection, only paying tax on the stone carvings. 
When asked, Mr. Yang said that the exportation of the Psittacosaurus fossil and the Hadrosaur Eggs were in violation of Chinese law. Mr. Yang stated this was only a violation of the laws of China, not US. Mr. Yang stated he has no documents for any of the fossils. Agents asked for permission to photograph the fossils, and Mr. Yang agreed. 
The pictures were later sent to a Subject Matter Expert (SME) who, based on the photographs taken by the agents confirmed the fossils are a Psittacosaurus fossil and Hadrosaur Eggs and were indigenous to certain regions of China. The SME stated that these fossils are of high scientific value. A review of the law of the Peoples Republic of China prohibits the sale of specially protected fossils to foreigners or foreign organizations. 
On or about February 14, 2015 an agent acting in an undercover (UC) capacity entered the Arctic Products Inc. display area posing as a shopper. The UC agent started the conversation with Mr. Yang about the Hadrosaur Eggs that were on display and inquired as to how many they would be able to purchase for five-thousand dollars (USD-$5000.00). Mr. Yang stated that the Hadrosaur Eggs are from China, that they were very rare and that he used to have a lot, but may not be able to get them anymore. Mr. Yang stated that he already sold one (1) Hadrosaur Egg for four hundred fifty (USD-$450.00) but stated he would sell thirteen (13) Hadrosaur Eggs at a discounted rate for five-thousand dollars (USD-$5000.00) to the UC agent. 
The UC agent then inquired about the Psittacosaurus fossil.... Mr. Yang explained to the UC agent that the Psittacosaurus fossil was approximately 130-100 millions years old and it was for sale for fifteen thousand dollars (USD-$15,000). Mr. Yang stated that all the stuff was from China. Mr. Yang stated that he has had the Psittacosaurus fossil for a few years and that it was from the North-Eastern part of China. When asked how he got the fossils out of China, Mr. Yang stated the fossils are put in containers with the stone carvings and "we do not declare, we declare it as stone."
An arrest is not a finding of guilt; it is simply a process that initiates a criminal court proceeding. The prosecution bears the burden to prove that a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Photo source: U.S. DoJ

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a project of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cultural Heritage Events in Dallas and Philadelphia You Won't Want to Miss

Roger Atwood
Red Arch board of directors Roger Atwood and Victoria Reed will be featured at two upcoming events you will want to attend.

Atwood will share his vast knowledge of cultural heritage looting on February 20 at the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas. Atwood is the author of Stealing History, a riveting account of the antiquities trafficking underworld. He is a contributing editor at Archaeology magazine and a London correspondent for ARTnews.

Victoria Reed
On March 27 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dr. Reed will share her experiences as a provenance investigator as a panelist at the Lawyer's Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation (LCCHP) annual conference. She is Sadler curator for Provenance at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

This year's LCCHP's conference, co-sponsored by the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, is titled Cultural Property: Current Problems Meet Established Law and presents an all-star cast.

Patty Gerstenblith
Luminaries in the cultural heritage protection field like Professor Patty Gerstenblith of the DePaul Center for Art, Museum & Cultural Heritage Law, Corrine Wegener of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, and many others are expected to offer crisp insights.

Register here today! The conference offers 4.5 CLE credits for lawyers, including 1.0 for ethics.

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a project of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Combating Terror Funding: Cultural Heritage Trafficking in Syria and Iraq Targeted by Unanimously Adopted UN Security Council Resolution

The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2199 today. It is designed to strangle terrorists' ability to raise money through cultural heritage trafficking and other criminal sources like oil smuggling and kidnap and ransom.

Adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charterwhich covers threats to peace, the resolution particularly targets fundraising efforts by the Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL) and Al Nusra Front (ANF).

Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, told Security Council members, "by imposing a new ban on the trade in smuggled Syrian antiquities, this resolution both cuts off a source of ISIL revenue and helps protect an irreplaceable cultural heritage, of the region and of the world." She highlighted how "the United States has sponsored the publication of so-called “Emergency Red Lists” of Syrian and Iraqi antiquities at risk, which can help international law enforcement catch antiquities trafficked out of these countries."

United Kingdom ambassador Mark Lyall Grant  expressed concern about the "disturbing body of evidence that Al Qaeda groups such as ISIL are generating significant incomes from the sale of oil, kidnapping for ransom and the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items from Iraq and Syria." Speaking in support of the measure, Ambassador shared his view that the "resolution contains measures to constrain ISIL’s ability to fund their campaign of terror."

In the three paragraphs that cover cultural heritage trafficking, the Security Council declares that it
Condemns the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria particularly by ISIL and ANF, whether such destruction is incidental or deliberate, including targeted destruction of religious sites and objects; 
Notes with concern that ISIL, ANF and other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with A1-Qaida, are generating income from engaging directly or indirectly in the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items from archaeological sites, museums, libraries, archives, and other sites in Iraq and Syria, which is being used to support their recruitment efforts and strengthen their operational capability to organize and carry out terrorist attacks;
Reaffirms its decision in paragraph 7 of resolution 1483 (2003) [that prohibits the trade in Iraqi cultural heritage objects reasonably suspected to have been illegally removed] and decides that all Member States shall take appropriate steps to prevent the trade in Iraqi and Syrian cultural property and other items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific, and religious importance illegally removed from Iraq since 6 August 1990 and from Syria since 15 March 2011, including by prohibiting crossborder trade in such items, thereby allowing for their eventual safe return to the Iraqi and Syrian people and calls upon the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, Interpol, and other international organizations, as appropriate, to assist in the implementation of this paragraph[.]
The Permanent members of the Security Council include the United States, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, France, and China. Non-permanent members include Venezuela, Spain, Nigeria, New Zealand, Malaysia, Lithuania, Jordan, Chile, Chad, and Angola.

Russia authored Resolution 2199, and member states have four months to report the steps they have taken to comply with the resolution's aspirations.

Photo credit: Marmit

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a project of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Federal Judge Denies ACCG's Motion to Reconsider

Judge Catherine Blake has once again said no to the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild in the case of U.S. v. Three Knife-Shaped Coins Et al.

In a short ruling issued Tuesday, the federal court judge for the district of Maryland wrote:
I have considered the motion for reconsideration ... filed by the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (“the Guild”), together with the government’s opposition and the Guild’s reply. As I continue to believe that my opinion issued June 3, 2014 correctly interprets the Fourth Circuit’s ruling in Ancient Coin Collectors Guild v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 698 F.3d 171 (4th Cir. 2012), the motion for reconsideration is Denied.
Earlier court actions pursued by the Guild have resulted in losses in the federal district courtthe court of appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a project of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Hat tip: Gary Nurkin
Photo credit: Jason Morrison

Monday, January 26, 2015

Be a Judge: The 2015 National Cultural Heritage Law Moot Court Competition Needs You!

DePaul University College of Law and the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation are seeking attorneys to serve as judges during the Sixth Annual National Cultural Heritage Law Moot Court Competition. This year’s Competition is the largest and most competitive yet, with twenty-six teams representing nineteen law schools from across the country participating in the 2015 Competition! Oral arguments will be held on February 27-28, 2015 at the Everett McKinley Dirksen United States Courthouse, home of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in Chicago, IL.

The 2015 Competition centers on constitutional challenges to the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA), 17 U.S.C. § 106A, which protects visual artists’ moral rights of attribution and integrity. The problem, which can be viewed here, addresses both a First Amendment and a Fifth Amendment challenge to VARA.

Attorneys who serve as judges during the competition may receive CLE credit if they qualify. Each judge also receives a complimentary ticket to the Awards Reception, to be held on Saturday, February 28th in the Grand Ballroom of the Standard Club.  If you are interested in serving as a judge, please download and complete the 2015 Judge Registration Form on the competition website and email it to chmootjudges@gmail.com. Additional information regarding the 2015 Competition can be found at go.depaul.edu/chmoot.

Text copyrighted 2015 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a project of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.