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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ayman Ramadan and Nafertiti Eastern Sculptures Trading

Readers will recall that the US Justice Department issued a press release in July 2011 announcing the unsealing of a multiple count indictment charging four men charged with antiquities smuggling and money laundering. Ayman Mohammad Ramadan was one of the men indicted. (Note: an indictment is not a finding of guilt.) He is currently a fugitive.

The US Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York, summarized the alleged facts of the case in this way: “[F]rom October 2008 through November 2009, [Joseph] Lewis [of Virginia] purchased a Greco-Roman style Egyptian sarcophagus, a nesting set of three Egyptian sarcophagi, a set of Egyptian funerary boats and Egyptian limestone figures from [Moussa “Morris” Khouli, who earlier acquired those items from [antiquities dealer Salem] Alshdaifat and [antiquities dealer Ayman] Ramadan. Each of these antiquities was exported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and smuggled into the United States using a variety of illegal methods intended to avoid detection and scrutiny by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (“Customs”).”

Ayman Ramadan is described by US Customs in a July 2011 press release as “a Jordanian antiquities dealer and operator of Nafertiti Eastern Sculptures Trading . . . . Ramadan was shipping goods to Windsor Antiques, a New York City gallery that showcased antiquities from around the world."

There is information to suggest that Ayman Ramadan may go by the name of Ayman Libzo. A Facebook profile bearing the name Ayman Libzo describes this named individual as the owner and president of Nafertiti Sculptures Trading L.L.C. It also lists Dubai as the place where this individual lives.

Paul Barford, in his blog on Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues, referenced Nafertiti Sculptures Trading in a 2010 entry. Commenting on a sale of artifacts by Salem Alshdaifat, Barford posted the following on September 4, 2010 to show what was reportedly advertised online by Alshdaifat, an apparent business associate of Ramadan and a co-defendant. The information suggests a business connection with Ayman Ramadan’s company, Nafertiti Eastern Sculptures Trading.

"10 Ancient Egyptian Blue Faience Ushabti C.600 BC. Size around 3 inches high .(7 - 8cm long) Rare items in great looking blue Faience (paist clay and glazed) Mummyform ushabti (servant for the next life) . perfect condition for the type, a real rare chance to get them in this condetion, Guaranteed Authenticity. this lot will be shipped from our office in Dubai Nefertiti Eastern Sculptures Trading Co P.O Box: 111301 Bar Dubai, Dubai. United Arab Emirates. Price US$ 1,300.00" (Errors in the original.)

A recent search on the government of Dubai’s web site reveals no current trade names or active trade licenses for Nafertiti Eastern Sculptures Trading or any variation of that name. There are also no companies listed that are associated with the names Ayman Ramadan or Ayman Libzo.

(As a side note, it is of interest that the government of Dubai maintains a relevant trade name category called “Authentic Antiques, Artefacts & Artworks Trading," classified by Activity Code 513969. Many art and antiques dealers, however, seem to place themselves in the “Novelties Trading” or “Gifts Trading” company category as a matter of course.)

There is also no listing in the UAE yellow pages or the Dubai commercial directory for Ayman Ramadan, Ayman Libzo, or any reasonable variation in spelling of Nafertiti Eastern Sculptures Trading.

There is information on a web page, nevertheless, that an “Ayman Libzo for Ancient Antiquity” existed. What remains of the now inactive and sparsely archived web page, copyrighted 2008, is a ‘browse catalog” link, a generic Dubai business location, and a Dubai-based cell phone number. The catalog link is inaccessible. The other information listed on the web page states that the company is part of the Trocadero network, which is a fine arts and antiques online selling platform. The Ayman Libzo for Ancient Antiquity web site once bore the web address of www.trocadero.com/aylibzo/, as suggested by archived internet records.

There apparently was also an online store bearing the name “Ayman Libzo for Ancient Antiquity” at one time. It was likely located on eBay.es, the Spanish eBay. That page does not exist today and is not archived. It was referenced, however, in an eBay “arqueologia y falsificaciones” (archaeology and forgery) discussion group during a 2008 conversation about Egyptian artifacts.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement asks that anyone with information on the whereabouts of Ayman Ramadan contact the Tip Line at 866-DHS-2-ICE.



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