Saturday, May 11, 2013

U.S. Attorney Files Complaint to Forfeit Peruvian Artifacts Seized at Miami International Airport

Federal prosecutors in Miami on Friday filed a complaint to forfeit ancient artifacts from Peru. The office of U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer (right) alleges that Peruvian citizen Jean Combe Fritz transported 29 banned heritage objects on a flight to Miami International Airport on August 21, 2010. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detained the items following a secondary examination of Combe Fritz's luggage that revealed "ancient indigenous artifacts."

The court pleading cites a violation of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA). The CPIA is the federal law that implements the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Under the terms of the CPIA's Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the U.S. and Peru, designated cultural heritage materials from Peru are restricted from America's shores unless authorized.

The U.S. Attorney's verified complaint recites that Dr. Carol Damien Ferrer, Pre-Columbian art expert at Florida International University, concluded that the cultural objects were the kind of archaeological and ethnological material covered by the MoU. Luis Chang, Minister Counselor of the Embassy of Peru, also confirmed that the MoU covered the detained items.

Ferrer's office subsequently filed a forfeiture action in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, asserting:
the United States has a reasonable basis to believe: that the Defendant Artifacts were produced by indigenous tribal people in Peru during the Pre-Columbian period, or in the Colonial period; that they are important to the cultural heritage of the Peruvian people; that they are designated Pre-Columbian and Colonial  textiles, metals, lithics, and perishable remains as listed in 19 C.F.R. 12.104(g) and are thus subject to export control by Peru.
The Defendant Artifacts were imported into the United States without any certification from Peru that the exportation of the artifacts from Peru was lawful under Peruvian law, as required by the CPIA, 19 U.S.C. § 2606(a).
The objects seized by CBP include a Moche bone carving (left), a 12 piece Inca burial bundle, an Early Horizon/Chavin stone carving, a Moche copper and bronze spatula, a Nazca mantle, and a Chimu weave fragment.

This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire at culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Text copyrighted 2010-2013 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post is prohibited. CONTACT INFORMATION: www.culturalheritagelawyer.com