Friday, December 30, 2011

Terraces at Choquequirao, Peru
Photo by Harley Calvert.  CC 
As the January 3 deadline approaches for submitting comments to CPAC (the Cultural Property Advisory Committee) regarding Peru's renewal request for import protections, some scholars have supplied firsthand accounts of the threats to cultural property in that country.

Brian Bauer of the University of Illinois remarks to CPAC:
"I am a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and have conducted archaeological research in Peru for more than 30 years. Looting is a huge problem in Peru and every day the archaeological record of its past civilizations becomes smaller as sites are destroyed. Much of the looting is fueled by the demand for artifacts, in both the art and antiquities market. The current restrictions on the importation of artifacts from Peru into the USA plays an important role in curbing the demand for these artifacts and helps to preserve archaeological sites. I urge you to continue as well as further strengthen these [regulations]." 

Dr. Margaret Jackson of the University of New Mexico writes in her public comments to CPAC:
"This message is in support of the proposed extension of the ban on archaeological and cultural properties from Peru. As a scholar specializing in art and cultural materials from the Andean region, I can personally speak about the kinds of damage caused by the illegal traffic in antiquities. I've witnessed it firsthand. When people think of ancient Peruvian culture, they often think of the pristine mountain fastness of sites like Machu Picchu, but unfortunately, the actuality is rather different. To supply a voracious art market, site after site will be chewed up by looters, bones and burials desecrated, architecture obliterated, fragile murals and other remains turned to rubble and cast aside. This happens at sites large and small all over Peru. Placing legal restrictions is the only way to curtail the destruction. I strongly support any measures toward this end."

And Maya Stanfield-Mazzi of the University of Florida describes:
"As a professor of art history at the University of Florida, I request that you renew the MoU with Peru to protect that country's cultural heritage. I have conducted research in Peru for several years and have seen the damaging effects of the theft and destruction of that country's heritage, both Pre-Columbian and Spanish colonial. These losses are damaging to the Peruvian people as a nation and to the Peruvian economy. It is important to the standing of the United States that it not be seen as complicit in the trade of illicit art and artifacts. Please continue to support Peru's efforts to conserve its heritage."

Comments regarding the Peruvian request for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United States that would renew import protections pursuant to the Cultural Property Implemantaion Act (CPIA) may be submitted by clicking here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Alltop, all the top stories

Merry Christmas to all my readers.  Courtesy of your interest in and subscriptions to this blog, an early gift arrived today.  Alltop placed Cultural Heritage Lawyer on its Top Archaeology News site.  This blog is honored to join the ranks of such prestigious publications as Archaeology magazine, ScienceDaily, and Looting Matters on Alltop's list.  Thank you to all my readers.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Brogan Museum
Source: Ebaye
Just a little over a month after authorities seized the Cristo Portacroce from the Brogan Museum in Florida (see here), directors announced that they will close the doors to the museum indefinitely on January 15 because of financial problems.  Watch the WCTV report here.  It remains to be seen if the museum will reopen.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Baltimore Division courthouse.
Source: US District Court of Maryland
Lawyers for Barry Landau have filed a motion to suppress the evidence the government obtained from a search of Landau’s home.  Landau is charged in Maryland federal district court with conspiracy and theft of major artwork. See here for background.

Landau is scheduled for trial in February and is presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  His co-defendant, Jason Savedoff, entered a guilty plea earlier this year.  Find more information at this

Federal agents executed a search warrant on July 12, 2011, reportedly seizing historical documents from Landau’s New York City apartment.  But Landau claims, through his counsel, that the search warrant lacked sufficient probable cause and, therefore, the evidence seized cannot be admitted by the government at trial.

The motion to suppress contends that police observed Savedoff acting suspiciously at the Maryland Historical Society (MHS), and it was Savedoff who was found with historical documents after being arrested.  Despite the fact that Landau was not seen to have acted suspiciously and that Landau did not have possession of any historical documents, police unlawfully placed Landau under arrest and acquired a search warrant based on specious facts, the motion argues.  The motion to suppress explains:

"The affidavit provided to Judge Katz in support the respective applications for search and seizure warrants failed to establish probable cause to permit the searches authorized.  Because there was no evidence recovered from Mr. Landau, and no one observed him stealing any documents or acting inappropriately while at the MHS and prior to his arrest, there was no probable cause to allow a search of his residence and all evidence seized at this apartment pursuant to the search warrant should be suppressed."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

INTERPOL (the International Criminal Police Organization) has issued an alert to specialist dealers and coin collectors.  The agency seeks to recover gold coins and plates discovered off the coast of Corsica more than 25 years ago.  The 1700 year objects are part of the "Lava Treasure."

Authorities have been attempting to reclaim the Roman-era items after identifying divers who made off with the find from French waters and then sold the haul for millions.  France prosecuted eight people implicated in the case, and the nation recovered coins and a plate from the treasure last year worth up to nearly three million dollars.  Many unrecovered items could still be on the market.  Click here for more background on the case.

Anyone with information about gold coins or plates from the Lava Treasure should contact INTERPOL here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

While Peru currently pursues its request for an extension of American cultural property import protections under the Cultural Property Implementation Act (see this post for background), PRI’s The World and the BBC reported on yesterday’s repatriation of artifacts to Peru by Yale University.  You can listen or read the news item by clicking on the links.

Naturally, the ongoing problem of archaeological site looting was mentioned in the reports by Mattia Cabitza.  Two observations bear some attention.

First, it is not often that we hear about the specific monetary costs of repatriation.  Blanca Alva of the Peruvian Ministry of Culture is quoted as saying: "The problem is that repatriations are expensive."  "They involve a court case, and you need to pay lawyers, transportation, packing, insurance, laboratory tests, etc.”  Cabitza informs us that “[i]n 2007, the Peruvian government estimated that it spent $625,000 (£400,000) on the repatriation of some 400 antiquities.  Ms Alba believes repatriating antiquities is, in the long term, a price worth paying, but she would prefer it if more was done to fight looting.”

Second, there was a discussion about using satellite imagery to combat clandestine archaeological looting.  The idea has been mentioned many times before and bears repeating.  Indeed, Cabitza writes that “Nicola Masini of Italy's Institute for Archaeological and Monumental Heritage has been using satellite imagery in Peru since 2007. . . . Mr Masini believes satellites could also be used to combat looting, because they reveal the presence of fresh excavations.”

Satellite monitoring should be used as a tool for detecting site looting around the globe and for collecting evidence in order to both deter clandestine digs and to prosecute illegal antiquities trafficking.  Commercial satellite imagery can be expensive, but the technology has shown early results when used to expose war crimes (see the Satellite Sentinel Project).  Satellites may be used in a similar fashion to combat crimes affecting cultural heritage.  Global Heritage Network (GHN) announced that it started using satellites this year to monitor endangered cultural sites, and Google Earth is being utilized in some places as a cheaper alternative.  But there should be more widespread discussion about investing in the higher resolution images that can be provided by a commercial company like DigitalGlobe, which furnishes GHN's images.

Satellite image of the famous site of Macchu Pichu in Peru.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A recent video produced by reports on cultural heritage in Libya in the context of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.  The short, two part film titled NATO and Libya - Cultural Heritage in Times of Unrest can be viewed below.

One important remark is made by Dr. Joris Kila, Chairman of the International Military Cultural Resources Work Group.  He explains that friendly military forces committed to protecting cultural property can deny enemy forces a potential reservoir of military financing.  The comment is another reminder that meaningful investigation to uncover the connection between illegal antiquities trafficking and weapons purchases is sorely needed.

Part I

Part II


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Extensions of the Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with Cyprus and Peru will be taken up by the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) at their next meeting in Washington, DC.  A public session will be held on January 18, 2012 to consider extending the bilateral agreements the United States has with these nations, which implement US import protections covering jeopardized cultural property.

An MoU is enacted pursuant to Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention (the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property).  The treaty is implemented in the US by the federal Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA).  Import protections granted under the CPIA last for five years and may be renewed.

To attend the public session, reserve your place by calling  the Cultural Heritage Center of the Department of State at (202) 632–6301 by 5 p.m. EST on January 3.

Byzantine bronze cross from Cyprus
subject to US import protections.
Source: US State Dept.
Public comments may be submitted electronically to CPAC.  Click here to comment on the Cyprus MoU extension, or here to comment on the Peru MoU extension.  Comments are due January 3 by the end of the day.  If you encounter any problems, visit the eRulemaking web site at  Enter docket number DOS-2011-0135 for Cyprus or docket number DOS-2011-0136 for Peru and follow the instructions on the web site.  Be aware that the electronic submissions process sometimes can be cumbersome.  Comments may also be mailed to:

Cultural Heritage Center (ECA/P/C)
SA-5, Fifth Floor
Department of State
Washington, DC 20522-0505

The comments must address one, some, or all of the four determinations outlined by the CPIA.  Quoting 19 USC 2602, the four determinations are:

(A) [whether] the cultural patrimony of the State Party is in jeopardy from the pillage of archaeological or ethnological materials of the State Party;

(B) [whether] the State Party has taken measures consistent with the Convention to protect its cultural patrimony;

(C) [whether] --

(i) the application of the import restrictions . . . with respect to archaeological or ethnological material of the State Party, if applied in concert with similar restrictions implemented, or to be implemented within a reasonable period of time, by those nations (whether or not State Parties [to the 1970 UNESCO Convention]) individually having a significant import trade in such material, would be of substantial benefit in deterring a serious situation of pillage, and

(ii) remedies less drastic than the application of the restrictions set forth in such section are not available; and

(D) [whether] the application of the import restrictions . . . in the particular circumstances is consistent with the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes.

The European Commission (EC) of the European Union (EU) says in a November 29, 2011 press release that it is seeking comments on "on ways to improve the safe-keeping of cultural goods and the return between Member States of national treasures unlawfully removed from their territory."  The EC consists of a representative group of Commissioners who serve as the executive body of the EU.

The European Commission's public statement adds that it "launched a public consultation on ways to improve the safe-keeping of cultural goods and the return between Member States of national treasures unlawfully removed from their territory. The consultation will provide an insight into the views of public authorities, citizens and other stakeholders on the most effective way to facilitate such return."

Vice President Antonio Tajani
EC Vice President Antonio Tajani is quoted as saying: "Today, the illicit trafficking of cultural property is a major problem, going beyond a significant economic dimension, to affecting the core of our cultural identity. I share the increased concern of citizens and Member States and I am working to improve the situation. Please be a part of this effort and let us have your comments and ideas".

Contact information regarding where to send comments may be found here [Update 1/24/12: this link apparently has been suspended].  The deadline is March 5, 2012.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tamucumira Mask.
One of the Bolivian objects subject to
CPIA import regulations.
Photo courtesy US State Dept.
The US government has extended import protections over archaeological and ethnological objects from Bolivia. The two governments entered into a bilateral agreement  in 2001 pursuant to the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA), which gives force to the 1970 UNESCO Convention (the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property). Import restrictions under the agreement last five years and may be renewed each period.

Bolivia received emergency protection under the CPIA in 1989.  A bilateral agreement, or Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), was finalized in 2001, and the US government renewed that MoU in 2006.  The latest renewal occurred earlier this year.  The Federal Register reports:

"On August 26, 2011, after reviewing the findings and recommendations of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs, United States Department of State, concluding that the cultural heritage of Bolivia continues to be in jeopardy from pillage of certain archaeological and ethnological materials, made the necessary determination to extend the import restrictions for an additional five years. On November 10, 2011, diplomatic notes were exchanged reflecting the extension of those restrictions for an additional five-year period."

On December 1, 2011, US Customs and Border Protection published its final rule describing the specific import regulations.  The rule may be found here.

Thanks go to Gary Nurkin for news of the rule's publication.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

United States Customs and Border Protection today issued the final administrative rule covering import restrictions covering archaeological and ethnological material from Greece. The rule follows the July 17, 2011 adoption of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the United States and Greece under the Cultural Property Implementation Act in accord with the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The MoU entered into force on November 21, 2011 and can be found here.

Greek mosaic.
Source: Bijan.  CC.
Import protections are now in place on Greek archaeological and ethnological cultural items dating from around 20,000 B.C. through the 15th century A.D. These restrictions last for five years and were instituted in order to "control illegal trafficking of such articles in international commerce" and to protect "endangered cultural property," according to the rule.

Ancient objects subject to seizure at the American border include those made of stone, metal, ceramic, bone, ivory, glass, faience, textile, papyrus, paint, mosaic, wood, glass, and parchment. The import restrictions cover sculptures, sarcophagi, reliefs, furniture, vessels, tools, weapons and armor, coins, beads, pottery, musical instruments, documents, paintings, floor mosaics, and more.

Lawful entries of these specified cultural objects are permitted in certain cases. For example, a valid export permit from Greek authorities would allow an archaeological or ethnological cultural object to enter the US border.

The Federal Register has published the rule at 19 CFR Part 12.  Click here for the full text.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Federal courthouse in Brooklyn, NY.
Photo by Jim Henderson.  CC
The latest pleading filed by Salem Alshdaifat’s attorney in the case of US v. Khouli et al. asks for a change of venue. The defense argues that personal and financial hardships faced by Alshdaifat, a Michigan resident, urge a transfer of the case from the federal district court in New York to Detroit.

The motion provides a possible preview into some of the defenses that may be available in the case, including:
  • a characterization of the charged conduct as “regulatory-based criminal charges,”
  • a claim that the objects that are the subject of the multi-count indictment are neither stolen nor contraband, and
  •  an argument that Alshdaifat was a middle man who did not possess criminal intent.
A federal grand jury charged Alshdaifat in May 2011 with conspiracy to smuggle, alleging that he directed Mousa Khouli to wire $20,000 to Ayman Ramadan’s UAE bank account and that Alshdaifat received an airway bill from Ramadan showing that “wooden panels” were being shipped by Ramadan’s company in the United Arab Emirates to JFK airport in New York.  Moreover, Alshdaifat is charged with money laundering conspiracy.  He is also charged with smuggling goods into the country as well as fraudulent importation and transportation of goods.  The indictment describes the goods as an Egyptian inner coffin, Egyptian funerary boats and limestone figures, and a portion of an outer lid of a nesting Egyptian coffin set.  (A grand jury indictment is a mechanism that initiates a criminal case; it is not a finding of guilt.)

Writing in support of the motion for change of venue, Alshdaifat’s attorney previews the possible defenses in the case.  The following are excerpts from the Memorandum of Law dated November 21, 2011:
  • “The facts surrounding these charged criminal violations of the Customs laws arise out of the importation of rare Egyptian antiquities, including a three-piece set of sarcophagi and other funerary objects. These artifacts were allegedly shipped to the United States in several packages, variously by international air mail and by private air and sea carriers. The government does not claim that the Egyptian artifacts were stolen or were otherwise contraband when they entered the country. Instead, the government's charges rest on a theory that the alleged conspirators willfully falsely or vaguely declared these artifacts in entry documents into the United States because the importer purportedly had insufficient or incomplete documents of origin for the objects and this might have caused them to be detained at a United States port-of-entry if detected.” (emphasis in the original)
  •  “Mr. Alshdaifat was neither the U.S. importer nor the foreign exporter of the subject Egyptian artifacts. Based on the government's own claims, he is alleged to have been the “finder” or middleman that put the alleged foreign source of the artifacts (defendant [Ayman] Ramadan) in contact with the U.S. importer, or interested antiquities dealer (defendant [Mousa] Khouli). Despite being charged with a role that essentially ended prior to the importation process, Mr. Alshdaifat is charged with his co-defendants for knowingly participating in making false or intentionally incomplete statements on shipping labels on various shipments of these Egyptian antiquities.  The government's claims against Mr. Alshdaifat, therefore, rely on findings that he knew and intentionally joined a conspiracy to falsely declare the Egyptian artifacts in their shipment to the United States after his role in being a broker to the transactions was already completed.” (emphasis in the original)
  •  “In the Egyptian sarcophagi transactions, however, Mr. Alshdaifat only had a broker's interest and did not deal in the artifacts himself. Somehow, however, he now finds himself charged together with the principals of those transactions for allegedly violating technical Customs laws in the mailing and shipping of the merchandise, a process in which he did not participate.”
  • “The government’s position in support of criminal liability on the charged air mail shipments is based largely on the claim that Mr. Alshdaifat's co-defendants put these pieces in international mail or on an airplane as air cargo without completing more formal U.S. Customs paperwork with the specific intent to avoid Customs’ detection of these shipments and break U.S. Customs' law.  No lay witnesses exist to testify as to whether a defendant's act of putting these parcels in the mail or on an airplane constituted an intentional and clandestine conspiratorial effort to get the charged, legal merchandise into the United States.” (emphasis in the original and footnote omitted)
  •  “In any event, Mr. Alshdaifat is not even implicated in the government's discovery with doing anything – in New York or elsewhere – to assist in the importation of the merchandise. He is charged with putting the alleged source of the Egyptian coffins and artifacts (defendant [Ayman] Ramadan) in contact with the New York antiquities dealer who purchased them (defendant [Mousa] Khouli). The government must concede that Mr. Alshdaifat was neither the importer nor exporter of the charged shipments, and therefore had no role in the actual shipment of the merchandise, i.e., the packaging, labeling and placing of the merchandise in international mail.  As such, he never had any contacts with New York.”
  •  “The government does not charge that the Egyptian coffins and funerary objects were stolen property. The objects imported, therefore, are not contraband or unlawful to possess in the United States. The government's claims in this Indictment rest instead on the precarious theory that the method in which the artifacts were shipped into the United States was intentionally fraudulent even though the goods themselves were not banned or prohibited from entry. Indeed, the government does not even claim that the method of importation was intentionally fraudulent to avoid import duties, since antiquities are excluded from any import tax.” (emphasis in the original)
The defense contends that the government’s conduct materially affected Alshdaifat’s business.  Alshdaifat writes in a Declaration to the court dated November 21, 2011 that he started dealing in ancient coins in Canada, selling them primarily over the internet and at international trade shows.  He describes himself as a specialist in ancient Judean coins who gained admission to many coin auction houses and membership associations.  Alshdaifat adds that he was the moderator of the “Judean ancient coin section for the largest numismatic worldwide web community.”  Defense counsel’s Memorandum of Law explains:

“Mr. Alshdaifat's circumstances are particularly extraordinary. These include the fact that from his initial arrest, the government stacked the deck against him, making it untenable for him to get his fair day in court. On July 13, 2011, the government arrested Mr. Alshdaifat in his Michigan home and confiscated his entire business inventory of ancient coins, thereby effectively shutting his business down.  It did so despite the fact that the criminal charges in the Indictment had nothing to do with Mr. Alshdaifat's coin business. Subsequently, the government returned his coins but not until his business suffered a crushing, and possibly, fatal blow. Mr. Alshdaifat's reputation as an honest coin dealer has been battered; more importantly, he has been removed or suspended from all of the auction houses where he sold his coins. His business is in dire shape.” (emphasis in the original)

Information supplied to the court describes the relationship between Alshdaifat and co-defendant Ayman Ramadan.  Court papers remark that “Mr. Alshdaifat has purchased ancient coins before from defendant Ramadan in the United Arab Emirates ("U.A.E.") and has sold coins to defendant Khouli in New York. 
 That is how he knew two of the other parties charged in this Indictment.”

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Egyptian Museum, Cairo
Source: Bs0u10e01, Creative Commons
According to an email by the General Director of The Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the museum will not be in a position to respond to inquiries regarding any artifacts until June 2012. This information is important to anyone conducting provenance research relating to Egyptian cultural objects. The email appears below:

To whom it may concern,

Due to the current situation in Egypt, I regret to say that the
Registration, Collections Management and Documentation
Department (RCMDD) and the curatorial staff of the Egyptian
Museum, Cairo will not be accepting any new requests for
object information and images starting from 1 December, 2011
until 30 May, 2012. This is due to the huge backlog that was
created following the events of January 28th, as well as the
renovations that are currently happening in the Museum.
Information on objects from our collection can still be obtained by
accessing the intranet version of the Museum Database on the
computers dedicated to scholars in the RCMDD office, located in
the museum basement.  The department is open to scholars from
9:30 am until 2:00 pm, Sunday-Thursday.

Dr. Tarek El Awady
General Director,
The Egyptian Museum, Cairo

Source: Egyptologists' Electronic Forum, forwarded by Dr. Yasmin El Shazly.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Egyptian coffin seized by ICE
in the case of US v. Khouli et al.
Photo: ICE
The US District Court for the Eastern District of New York held a status conference in the criminal matter of United States v. Khouli et al. on November 17, 2011.  The court waived all three of the defendants’ presence at the hearing.  The defendants include Mousa “Morris” Khouli, Salem Alshdaifat, and Joseph A. Lewis II.  Ayman Ramadan remains a fugitive.

By way of letter dated November 4, 2011 and written by his attorney, Khouli sought leave to attend a coin show in Baltimore, Maryland, reportedly scheduled for November 16 and 20.  The short letter explained: “As an antiquities dealer, Mr. Khouli’s livelihood depends on his ability to attend coin shows and other similar events.”  The court granted Khouli’s request and extended the ruling, waiving the appearance of the other co-defendants.

Internet records reveal that the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Baltimore Expo was held during this time.  Palmyra Heritage, the name of the business owned and operated by Khouli, was listed as occupying booth #1107 while Holyland Numismatics, the name of the business owned and operated by Alshdaifat, was listed as occupying booth #1154 at the event that took place at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Salem Alshdaifat’s attorney filed documents soon after the November 17 status hearing requesting a change of venue in an effort to curtail any hardship to Alshdaifat, who lives in Michigan.  Submitted on November 21, the pleadings reveal more information about Alshdaifat’s background and his association with co-defendant Ayman Ramadan.  The pleadings also supply a preview of Alshdaifat’s possible legal defenses.  These topics are discussed here.

The next court status conference is scheduled for January 27, 2012.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) met between November 15 and 17, 2011, holding a public session on November 16. Professor Patty Gerstenblith, newly appointed chair and director of the Center for Art, Museum, & Cultural Heritage Law at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago, presided over the meeting.

Bulgaria and Belize both petitioned the United States government for a memorandum of Understanding (MoU) seeking cultural property import protections pursuant to Article 9 of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (the UNESCO Convention). The requesting nations’ official public summaries appear here:  Bulgaria | Belize.  CPAC will ultimately provide advice about the adoption or rejection of these MoU requests.

CPAC received testimony to consider whether the countries’ requests satisfy the four determinations enumerated in the federal Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA). They include:

1. Whether the cultural patrimony of the requesting nation is in jeopardy from pillage;

2. Whether the requesting nation has taken measures to protect the cultural patrimony;

3. Whether import protections would be of substantial benefit to deter serious pillage, and whether there are other less drastic remedies; and

4. Whether the implemtation of import protections is consistent with the global exchange of cultural property for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes.

Roman ruins in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Author: Kyle Taylor
Creative Commons license.
CPAC received 503 online submissions prior to the public session, and seven people presented live testimony regarding the Bulgarian request. Those appearing in person before CPAC were:

• Kevin Clinton, President of the Board of Trustees of the American Research Center in Sofia (ARCS). See his prior written comments here.

• Brian Daniels of the University of Pennsylvania Museum's Cultural Heritage Center.

• Nathan Elkins, a professor of Greek and Roman art and history at Baylor University who focuses on ancient coins.

• Stephen J. Knerly, an attorney who routinely appears before CPAC on behalf of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD). Read his previously submitted written statement here.

• Christina Luke Roosevelt, a lecturer and archaeologist at Boston University who appeared on behalf of the Archaeological Institute of America’s (AIA) Cultural Policy Committee. Read her previously submitted written statement here.

• Peter Tompa, an attorney appearing on behalf of the International Association of Professional Numismatists. He is an officer of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) but did not appear in this capacity. His previously submitted personal comments appear here.

• Kerry Wetterstrom, a governing officer of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild.

Maya archaeological site in Caracol, Belize.
Author: Pgbk87. Creative Commons.
Public comments were also submitted discussing Belize’s MoU request. 153 online submissions were made, and five people appeared in Washington, DC to present live testimony. They were:

• Brian Daniels of the University of Pennsylvania Museum's Cultural Heritage Center.

• Elizabeth Gilgan, an archaeologist who worked in Belize. She serves on the board of directors of Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE). Her previous written submission appears here.

• Stephen J. Knerly, an attorney appearing on behalf of AAMD. Read his previously submitted written statement here.

• Christina Luke Roosevelt, appearing on behalf of the AIA’s Cultural Policy Committee. Read her written statement here. You can also find AIA President Elizabeth Bartman’s online statement here.

• Patricia McAnany, appearing on behalf of the Society for American Archaeology and an archaeologist who has performed research in Belize.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thank you to the readers of Cultural Heritage Lawyer making it become one of the Top 25 international and foreign law blogs.  The award correspondence received today says:

"I am pleased to announce that your blog has been selected as one of the LexisNexis Top 25 International & Foreign Law Blogs of 2011!"

"The Top 25 group includes some of the best talent in the blogosphere and creates an invaluable content aggregate for all segments of the International & Foreign Law practice. Most good blogs provide frequent posts on timely topics, but the authors in this year’s collective take their blogs to a different level by providing insightful commentary that demonstrates how blogs can—and do—impact and influence the world of international and foreign law."

You can always click on the Top 25 image at the top right of this web page to make this blog #1!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The case of Rubin et al. v. the Islamic Republic of Iran v. Museum of Fine Arts and Harvard University et al. is in full swing at the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals.  The appeals court yesterday set a briefing schedule that calls for the appellant’s brief to be filed on December 27 and the appellee’s brief to be filed 30 days thereafter.  [Update 1/27/12: The court extended these deadlines.]

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bronze, a mixture of copper and tin,
is found in many statues and plaques,
which are vulnerable to copper thieves.
Frederic Remington, ''The Bronco Buster,"
given to the Lyndon B. Johnson Library.
Public domain image.

Copper theft continues to run rampant throughout the country. Museums, cultural institutions, churches, art galleries, universities, and more have been impacted by the great raid on copper and bronze sculpture and plaques. That is because the price of copper is high, largely driven up by rapid industrial development in China and India.

The recent press report of a sword swiped from a copper statue located at Abraham Lincoln’s tomb site in Springfield, Illinois has become common over the last several years. And thieves may be less interested in the art and more interested in the metal’s melted value.

Many states have laws that regulate scrap metal recyclers so that law enforcement can uncover scrap metal crimes. In New Hampshire, Chapter 322 of the Revised Statutes Annotated mandates junk and scrap metal dealers to be licensed, requires photo identification from person’s turning in metal for scrap, and permits law enforcement access to business records. Maine just announced its intention to stiffen regulations. Last week legislation moved forward in Augusta that would have scrap metal dealers check photo identification and vehicle information for anyone selling scrap metal, place a 72 hour delay on processing the metal, and have payments sent by check to a physical address. Penalties for noncompliance could include a license suspension for scrap metal processors.

Protecting outdoor statuary from copper theft may not be easy, but contacting a security consultant for a site assessment should be a first step for any cultural institution. Security options can then be considered in light of the actual risks and the institution’s budget.  Members of the nonprofit International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection may be able to help.

If a theft occurs, it should be reported to the local police immediately. Be sure to tell the police about Scrap Theft Alert, where law enforcement can report a theft to the membership of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Portrait of Girolamo Romano,
painter of the disputed artwork known as
Cristo Portacroce Trascinato Da Un Mangoldo.
In support of the warrant seizing Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rogue (Cristo Portacroce Trascinato Da Un Manigoldo) from The Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science and in support of the civil complaint seeking forfeiture, the US Attorney for the Northern District of Florida supplies important details about the artwork’s asserted history.  Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agent Phillip Reynolds describes facts in an affidavit submitted to the federal district court that permits the construction of the following timeline and details:

June 1914 - Art collector Federico Gentili di Giuseppe, Italian and of Jewish descent and living in Paris, purchased the Cristo Portacroce from the Crespi family collection. The 16th century painting by artist Girolamo Romano, was lawfully exported from Italy.

April 20, 1940 - Just before the Nazi invasion of France, Federico Gentili di Giuseppe died and left his estate to his son and daughter. They fled Paris without their possessions.

March 17, 1941 - The French Vichy government ordered the liquidation of the entire Gentili di Giuseppe estate.

April 23, 1941 - The Cristo Portacroce, and dozens of other paintings once in the Gentili di Giuseppe family’s possession, were auctioned. “Lemar” of Paris reportedly bought the Cristo Portacroce.

1994 - A Girolamo Romani catalog raisonné published by Alessandro Nova listed the Cristo Portacroce as having been owned by Federico Gentili di Giuseppe.

1997 – Descendants of Federico Gentili di Giuseppe sued the Louvre for the return of five paintings sold during the same auction as the Cristo Portacroce.

1998 - The Brera Art Gallery (Pinacoteca di Brera) took possession of the painting, although no details are provided regarding this transfer.

June 2, 1999 – a French court ordered custody of the five paintings at the Louvre to Federico Gentili di Giuseppe’s descendants, acknowledging that the 1941 auction was a “nullity” in that several painting were purchased by Nazis, including Luftwaffe chief Hermann Göring. The court also ordered the Louvre to pay 40,000 francs (approximately $8300).

After June 2, 1999 – The Art Institute of Chicago, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Art Museum of Princeton University all returned works of art to the Gentili di Giuseppe family heirs. Institutions in Berlin, Cologne, and Lyons did the same.

January 10, 2000 and March 14, 2000 – Lawyer Jean Pierre Sulzer twice contacted the the Brera Art Gallery by mail on behalf of Gentili di Giuseppe’s descendants, receiving no reply.

2001 – The Brera Art Gallery referred the restitution claims of the Gentili di Giuseppe heirs to the Italian Ministry of Culture, and attorneys for the family wrote a letter to the ministry on October 3, 2001 asking for the painting.

June 6, 2002 – The Commission for Art Recovery of the World Jewish Congress, a New York based group that seeks to restitute cultural property taken from Holocaust victims, wrote a letter to Italian President Silvio Berlusconi after the Ministry of Culture reportedly rejected the claims of the Gentili di Giuseppe family. The letter urged the president to reconsider Italy’s position.  (The contents of the letter suggest that the Brera made an earlier reply stating that it acquired the painting--and a second painting--in good faith.  The Brera's letter is not contained in court documents).

March 14, 2003 – The Italian Ministry of Culture responded to the Commission for Art Recovery’s intervention by saying that it carefully reviewed the matter in light of the Washington Principles and could not find that it could accommodate the request for repatriation. (See the Washington Principles here).

2006 – The Commission on Looted Art in Europe reportedly contacted the Italian government in an effort to have the Christo Portacroce returned.

March 18, 2011 – The Brogan placed the painting on display at its museum in Tallahassee, Florida.

November 4, 2011 – The loan contract between the Brera and the Brogan was due to terminate on November 6, and the painting was to be delivered to Italy.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE seized the painting on November 4, 2011 to prevent its return to Milan, and the US Attorney filed its in rem action against the artwork seeking its forfeiture.

The prosecution will seek to prove these alleged facts as it attempts to convince the federal district court that it has the evidence to forfeit the Cristo Portacroce.  Time will tell if any party steps forward to contest the claim.

See Part I for a discussion of the US government's asserted legal claims in this case.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"The Brera,"
which once possessed the Romano painting
seized by ICE in Florida on November 4, 2011.
Author: Masi27185. Creative Commons License
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seized the painting known as Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rogue pursuant to a court authorized warrant on Friday, November 4, 2011. Judicial records reveal that federal officials chose to seize the painting at that time because the artwork, which was on loan to and openly displayed at The Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science, was about to be returned to the Brera Art Gallery (Pinacoteca di Brera) in Milan, Italy. The Brera originally possessed and loaned the artwork, painted by Girolamo Romano around 1543.

The US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida filed a civil forfeiture action in federal district court in Tallahassee the same day as the seizure. Seizure permits the government to take possession of the painting, but a forfeiture order issued by the court would allow the government to gain title of the painting. That is why the US Attorney’s Office filed an in rem (against the thing) lawsuit, naming the artwork as the defendant. The case is captioned and docketed as United States of America v. Painting Known as Cristo Portacroce Trascinato Da Un Mangoldo, 4:11-cv-00571-RH-WCS.

Federal prosecutors argue in their civil complaint that forfeiture of the painting is proper under multiple legal theories. They cite the typical ones under the criminal statutes (Title 18 of the United States Code) and the customs statutes (Title 19 of the United States Code). But the government also makes a claim under Title 22, the foreign relations section.

First, prosecutors allege that the painting was smuggled pursuant to 18 USC § 545 and therefore must be forfeited under the terms of this criminal statute.

They also say that the artwork must be forfeited because it was illegally imported in contravention of the customs law at 19 USC § 1595a(c)(1)(A) since the painting was “stolen, smuggled, or clandestinely imported or introduced” into the United States.

Next, federal attorneys claim that the painting was about to be exported in violation of 19 USC § 1595a(d), a customs law requiring that the painting “shall be seized and forfeited to the United States” because its export would be “contrary to law.”

Federal lawyers also make a claim under the Illegal Exportation of War Materials statute at 22 USC § 401(a), saying that it mandates forfeiture of the painting: “Whenever an attempt is made to export or ship from or take out of the United States any arms or munitions of war or other articles in violation of law, or whenever it is known or there shall be probable cause to believe that any arms or munitions of war or other articles are intended to be or are being or have been exported or removed from the United States in violation of law” then the article may be seized and shall be forfeited.” (Emphasis added by the author).

Finally, the government makes the claim that the painting was stolen under 18 USC § 2314, the National Stolen Property Act, which criminalizes conduct whereby a person “transports, transmits, or transfers in interstate or foreign commerce any goods, wares, merchandise, securities or money, of the value of $5,000 or more, knowing the same to have been stolen, converted or taken by fraud.”

The court will decide if prosecutors possess the evidence to prove their case.  To date, the information prosecutors possess appears considerable. That material is discussed in Part II.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Museums are at risk. That is the conclusion of the 2011 ICCROM-UNESCO International Storage Survey conducted between June and September by the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The published summary below shows significant deficiencies in museum storage, museum administration, risk management, and loss prevention.

Strategic planning, resource development, and risk preparation are crucial to maintaining first-class cultural institutions. Museums in need of assistance can contact the International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection (IFCPP), RE-ORG, or other professionals who support cultural institutions.  The public, meanwhile, is encouraged to lend a hand to their local museums, libraries, and historical societies--both financially and by volunteering--so that history, art, science, and culture can be preserved and transmitted.  Many volunteer opportunities can be found at

A larger version of the report is available here.