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Monday, September 22, 2014

Stipulation Puts a Lid on Litigation Over Roman Sarcophagus Cover Featured in the Becchina Archive

The Roman sarcophagus lid. ICE
A marble Roman sarcophagus lid is expected to be forfeited and returned to Italy after federal prosecutors and the potential claimant signed a stipulation last week.

Litigation over the sculptured coffin cover--the so-called Defendant in rem--was avoided when the parties finalized their September 14 agreement over the stolen cultural object, which features in the Becchina archive.

The stipulation filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York recites in part:
WHEREAS, Mr. [Noriyoshi] Horiuchi [of Tokyo, Japan] states that, by and through agents, officers and employees of Art & Archaeology Inc. ("A&A"), an entity owned by Mr. Horiuchi, A&A obtained ownership of the Defendant in rem sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s, after the Defendant in rem had been publicly exhibited in a Swiss museum in 1982 and 1983, and its exhibition had been published in an accompanying catalogue; 
WHEREAS, Mr. Horiuchi states that he relied in good faith on the representations made by the seller of the Defendant in rem and the fact that it had been publicly exhibited and presented in a publication during its exhibition in the Swiss museum in 1982 and 1983, to conclude that the Defendant in rem was not stolen; 
WHEREAS, Mr. Horiuchi, by and through his attorneys, agents, officers and employees, properly declared the Defendant in rem to the United States Customs Service upon the importation of the Defendant in rem into the United States in February 2001; 
WHEREAS, Mr. Horiuchi states that he believed in good faith that the Italian Government did not claim ownership to the Defendant in rem because, as Mr. Horiuchi further states, he previously had disclosed his acquisition and possession of the Defendant in rem to the Italian Government; 
WHEREAS, Mr. Horiuchi states that the Defendant in rem was transferred to him by A&A and that in approximately 2012 A&A was dissolved; 
WHEREAS, Mr. Horiuchi, upon his receipt of notice of the Defendant in rem's seizure in the United States and the claim of ownership by the Italian Government, cooperated with the United States Attorney's Office in the above-captioned forfeiture action; and 
WHEREAS, all parties now agree that the Defendant in rem should be forfeited with the intent that it be returned to Italy....
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn filed its forfeiture complaint on February 27, a case captioned as U.S. v. One Ancient Roman Marble Sarcophagus Lid With Sculpture of Reclining Woman.

Prosecutors wrote that the sculpted cover was in the possession of Gianfranco Becchina and his Basel, Switzerland gallery. A Manhattan gallery later displayed the $4 million lid in May 2013 before transferring it to a storage unit in Long Island City, NY in October that same year. Homeland Security Investigations uncovered the lid in its crate at the storage facility in February 2014.

Federal attorneys built their case around 19 U.S.C. § 1595a(c)(1)(A), the statute that prohibits stolen, smuggled, or clandestinely imported goods from being introduced into the U.S.

The district court in Brooklyn is expected to approve the stipulation.

In July, a federal district court in Albany, NY forfeited two other antiquities appearing in the Becchina archive in the unrelated case of United States v. One Attic Red-Figure Skyphos and One Apulian Red-Figure Bell Krater.

By Rick St. Hilaire Text copyrighted 2014 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.