The legal battle initially began in 2009 when the ACCG transported the coins from London to Baltimore, declaring that they were from China and Cyprus and had no known provenance or find spots. Customs officials seized the coins. Since then, the ACCG has lost rounds to retrieve the cultural items in the federal district court, the circuit court of appeals, and the supreme court. The ACCG continues to search for a legal victory.
In its latest June 19 pleading, the ACCG asserts several affirmative defenses to the government's forfeiture complaint. Among the group's arguments are claims that
- European Union law does not consider ancient coins to be "archaeological objects" subject to export controls,
- China allows export of ancient coins through Hong Kong and Macao,
- the government cannot prove that the coins were first discovered in either China or Cyprus,
- no government expert has confirmed that the coins of the types subject to import controls,
- American import restrictions are "the product of bureaucratic bias and/or prejudgment and/or ex parte contact," and
- the coins can be reclaimed under an innocent owner defense.
The ACCG's publicly reported expenses in the ancient coins test case have thus far totaled $49,973 according to the group's 2009 and 2010 Form 990-EZ tax filings, the most recent ones available online. ACCG board member Attorney Peter Tompa and his Washington, DC based law firm have been handling the case since its inception.
The ACCG is a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, created as a public benefit corporation in Missouri in 2004. Papers filed with the Missouri secretary of state describe the nonprofit's stated mission to "promote and nurture the free and independent collecting of coins from antiquity" and "to foster an environment in which the general public can acquire and hold coins of historical interest."
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