Friday, December 6, 2013

NY Heritage Trafficking Conviction Provides a Model for Prosecutions and Investigations

The importance of Wednesday's guilty plea by Aaron Freedman in the Kapoor heritage trafficking case must not be overlooked.  Freedman, the manager of Subhash Kapoor's Art of the Past gallery in New York City, pleaded guilty in New York criminal court to felony conspiracy and five counts of felony criminal possession of stolen property for his role in facilitating a transnational cultural heritage trafficking ring. Kapoor is currently awaiting trial in India.

The conviction of Freedman shows that state prosecutions can successfully target heritage criminals, and that state and federal cooperation makes a difference.

D.A. Cyrus Vance, Jr.
New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. and Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos have demonstrated the will to prosecute crimes that destroy humanity's culture and identity.  This desire to make a difference is notably in the hands of attorneys in art market-rich Manhattan.

Freedman's conviction in state court and under state criminal law --not federal law--sets an example for prosecutors in other state and county jurisdictions to take on these cases too. The message that transnational cultural heritage trafficking cases can be prosecuted in local courthouses like any other large-scale conspiracy or stolen property ring is an important one for prosecutors to hear. County attorneys and district attorneys are already accustomed to handling receiving stolen property cases in their jurisdictions, so it makes sense for cultural property cases to be handled in county and district courthouses as well.

The Freedman prosecution also demonstrates the value of state and federal cooperation. To uncover transnational networks most often requires cooperation by federal investigators, and may also require evidence collection through the use of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties. To then have these investigations bear fruit requires state and county prosecutors willing to bring receivers of stolen property to justice. That is why the cooperation exhibited between Homeland Security Investigations of Immigration and Custom's Enforcement and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office in the Freedman case serves as a model.

Photo credit: NY County District Attorney's Office

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