Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Claimant Steps Forward in Peruvian Artifacts CPIA Forfeiture Case

It is noteworthy when a claimant steps forward to challenge a cultural property forfeiture complaint filed in federal district court. It does not happen often. But it happened yesterday when lawyers for Jean Combe Fritz filed a petition to recover Peruvian objects seized at Miami International Airport in Florida.

Many forfeiture cases are rooted in the claim that cultural property was brought to the United States in violation of a federal criminal law. That can alarm claimants who may find it easier to walk away from the allegedly stolen or smuggled goods rather than risk facing potential criminal charges or paying expensive lawyers' fees. The dinosaur forfeiture case of Eric Prokopi is a good example of a claimant's forfeiture challenge resulting in a criminal conviction.

Where the government alleges a violation of a Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) import restriction, claimants may feel that they are on sturdier legal ground to make an ownership claim. There is a strong argument that CPIA seizures and forfeitures allow for the added remedy of a criminal prosecution against an individual wrongdoer, and U.S. v. Perez is a supporting case. But there is a competing view that the CPIA's civil remedy of forfeiture is exclusive, precluding possible criminal prosecution.

U.S. v. Twenty-Nine Pre-Columbian and Colonial Artifacts from Peru is one forfeiture case based on a violation of the CPIA. Combe Fritz says the Peruvian objects are his, and he has filed a pleading in the southern district of Florida to reclaim the cultural goods seized by customs authorities. We shall watch to see what happens next.

This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire at 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: