Friday, December 19, 2014

The Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Program received a significant boost from lawmakers on Capitol Hill this week, and museums are sure to take note.

Tucked within the 1600 pages of the $1.1 trillion budget bill signed into law on Tuesday is a section that raises the indemnity limits for America's largest art insurance program.

Administered by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Program protects temporary museum exhibitions against loss or damage and saves nonprofit cultural institutions $30 million dollars a year in costs they otherwise would have spent on expensive commercial liability policies.

That estimate is given by Ford Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums, who told senators in May that only $100,000 has ever been paid from the federal treasury over the last four decades of the art insurance program's existence.

Congress originally passed the indemnity law in 1975 to cover foreign art on loan to American museums. The statute was expanded in 2007 to cover domestic artworks as well. The law's text is codified at 20 U.S.C. Chapter 26A and 45 C.F.R. Part 1160.

The newly enacted Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 increases the aggregate of loss or damage to art or artifacts from $10 billion to $15 billion for international exhibitions and from $5 billion to $7.5 billion for domestic exhibitions. Coverage for a single international exhibition, meanwhile, goes from $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion. The indemnity limit for a single domestic exhibition rises from $750 million to $1 billion.

The new indemnity limits reflect the higher prices that have been paid in recent years for objects sold on the fine arts and antiquities marketplaces.

Photo credit: Anna Hunter

Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a service of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Police officers are good at tracking down and arresting criminals. Prosecutors are good at securing convictions, even in some of the most complex cases. So why aren't police and prosecutors routinely investigating and prosecuting cultural heritage traffickers?

HSI officials returned smuggled cultural artifacts to the Turkish government
during a ceremony held last week in New York City. Source: ICE
Last week Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) repatriated ancient arrowheads, coins, and jewelry to Turkey, which were smuggled into Newark International Airport in February 2013. The objects represented some of the "more than 7,150 artifacts [that] have been returned to 27 countries" since 2007, which HSI touted in a press release.

No arrests were announced. In fact, the number of criminals taken into custody over the years for heritage trafficking has been infinitesimally small. That may be why HSI does not regularly report the number of arrests or convictions resulting from its cultural property, art, and antiquities investigations.

The impact of HSI's "seize and send" policy is that criminal infrastructures are left intact--i.e. bank accounts, smuggling routes, transshipment points, warehouses, and the like--while looters, smugglers, fences, couriers, and other offenders are returned to their criminal enterprises without consequence.

Cultural heritage trafficking needs to be deterred. It is the job of police and prosecutors to apply the law to combat this criminal activity, holding accountable those who illegally import contraband heritage and methodically dismantling the frameworks that facilitate trafficking operations.

Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Federal Register has posted the following announcement:
There will be a meeting of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee January 21-23, 2015 at the U.S. Department of State, Annex 5, 2200 C Street NW., Washington, DC. Portions of this meeting will be closed to the public, as discussed below. 
During the closed portion of the meeting, the Committee will review the proposal to extend the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Nicaragua Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Archaeological Material from the Pre-Hispanic Cultures of the Republic of Nicaragua (“Nicaragua Agreement”) [Docket No. DOS-2014-0027]. An open session to receive oral public comment on the proposal to extend the Nicaragua Agreement will be held on Wednesday, January 21, 2015, beginning at 11:00 a.m. EST. 
Also, during the closed portion of the meeting, the Committee will conduct an interim review of the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Mali Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Archaeological Material from Mali from the Paleolithic Era (Stone Age) to Approximately the Mid-Eighteenth Century (“Mali Agreement”). Public comment, oral and written, will be invited at a time in the future should the Mali Agreement be proposed for extension.
Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.

Friday, December 12, 2014

An Egyptian statute failed to sell at Sotheby's Egyptian, Classical, and Western Asiatic Antiquities auction held today in New York. Valued at over $400,000, bidding for "Lot 6" collapsed at $350,000 and did not reach the reserve price.

CHL has been probing the history of the curious piece for several weeks and expects to publish its findings in a future blog post.

In the meantime, this week Glasgow researcher Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis found the archaeological artifact listed in the Schinoussa archive. That is the set of photographs seized by Italian authorities in 2006 at the villa of antiquities dealers Robin Symes and Christos Michaelides. Click here for Peter Watson's article about the pair. The archive catalogs suspicious antiquities.

The Egyptian statue was one of six lots that did not sell today.

Purchasers found a few bargains at today's event, but many pieces commanded high prices. A small clay tablet containing cuneiform script and valued at $9000 sold for $43,750. An Egyptian black granite statue valued at $30,000 fetched $137,000. And a red-figured krater was purchased for $137,000, more than double its appraised value of $50,000.

Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch wrapped up another cultural property case yesterday. The matter of U.S. v. One Alioramus Dinosaur Skull came to a conclusion after a federal district court judge in Brooklyn ordered the dinosaur head's forfeiture.

No claimants appeared in court to oppose the civil forfeiture, even though French dealer Gefossiles, Inc. once tried to convince American authorities that all was proper with the company's dinosaur shipment. U.S. Customs seized the dinosaur skull in Newark, New Jersey in 2004.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York alleged in its forfeiture complaint filed in September that the head had been illegally imported into the U.S., and it was stolen property originating from Mongolia. A full description of the prosecution's allegations can be found here.

"Smugglers will falsify documents and lie about the origin and value of a cultural artifact just to get it across our borders to sell to the highest bidder," remarked James Hayes, Jr., Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge in New York. His team investigated the case. No arrests were made.

Now that the district court has forfeited the skull, it is expected to be sent back to Mongolia. Foreign officials first must file a petition for remission to have the object repatriated.

Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Editors of the ABA Journal announced today the selection of Cultural Heritage Lawyer as one of its top 100 best blogs.

Now that the editors have made their picks, the ABA Journal is asking readers to weigh in and vote for their favorites in each of the 8th Annual Blawg 100’s thirteen categories.

Click here to register and vote. Vote for CHL in the "Niche" blog category. Voting ends at close of business on Dec. 19, 2014.

CHL is grateful for the honor. Many thanks go to the blog's loyal readers, who make about 15,000 page views per month.

ABA Journal Editor and Publisher Allen Pusey remarked that law blogs play a crucial role in today's legal media landscape, explaining, “While traditional media sources often break news, law blogs dive deeper to offer insight into what the news means for clients, the legal profession and the public. And the ones on our list are well-written and, more often than not, entertaining.”

The ABA Journal is the flagship magazine of the American Bar Association, which is read by half of the nation’s 1.1 million lawyers every month. It features a directory of more than 4,000 lawyer blogs.

Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The fight to preserve our common cultural heritage, as well as to deny extremists such as ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] resources from the sale of blood antiquities, is yet another front on the global war against terror." proclaimed Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.-4) in a press statement issued last week.

Congressmen Eliot Engel and Chris Smith, sponsors of the
Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act.
Rep. Smith, together with Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.-16), introduced the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (H.R. 5703) in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday. The bill would create a cultural property protection czar and set up import restrictions to prevent looted and smuggled Syrian heritage material from crossing America's borders.

Rep. Engel, the lead sponsor of the bill, emphasized its importance: “Since World War II, the United States has been a leader in protecting cultural property. Today, ISIL and other terrorist organizations have found a lucrative source of revenue in artifacts they traffic out of areas of conflict. America must respond by denying terrorists and criminals the ability to profit from instability by looting the world of its greatest treasures.”

The proposed legislation would advance four articulated U.S. policy goals designed to
(1) protect and preserve international cultural property at risk of destruction due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters;
(2) protect international cultural property pursuant to its obligations under the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and customary international law in all conflicts to which the United States is a party; 
(3) prevent, in accordance with existing laws, importation of cultural property pillaged, looted, or stolen during political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters; and 
(4) ensure that existing laws and regulations, including import restrictions imposed through the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) of the Department of the Treasury, are fully implemented to prevent the trafficking in stolen or looted cultural property.
To promote these objectives, the lawmakers want the White House to appoint a Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection who will
(1) coordinate and promote efforts to address international cultural property protection activities that involve multiple Federal agencies, including diplomatic activities, military activities, law enforcement activities, import restrictions, and the work of the Cultural Antiquities Task Force established pursuant to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2004 (Public Law 108-199); 
(2) submit to the appropriate congressional committees an annual report on interagency efforts to protect international cultural property based on information required under section 5 of this Act; 
(3) provide policy recommendations, if necessary; 
(4) resolve interagency differences in a timely, efficient, and effective manner; and 
(5) work and consult with domestic and international actors such as foreign governments, nongovernmental organizations, museums, educational institutions, research institutions, and the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield on efforts to promote and protect international cultural property.
Under the terms of the legislative proposal, the Secretary of State, Attorney General, Secretary of Defense, and United States Agency for International Development Administrator would be required to submit reports to the cultural property protection czar that describe each department’s efforts to protect cultural property from the threats of armed conflict, political unrest, crime, construction activities, and natural disaster.

The bill curiously omits any duties that might have been placed on the Secretaries of Treasury, Interior, or Homeland Security to supply reports directly to the Coordinator. These cabinet officials supervise agencies that have an impact on international cultural property policyagencies like the the Office of Terrorism and Financial Assistance, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the Internal Revenue ServiceU.S. Fish and Wildlife, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Protection divisions. At best, the proposed legislation would have the Attorney General simply offer a report "in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security."

Reps. Engel and Smith also want to implement safeguards to protect endangered Syrian cultural property. Their bill would mandate the President to immediately enact emergency import restrictions under the terms of the Convention on the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) 19 U.S.C. 2603 in order to stop looted and smuggled antiquities from entering the American marketplace.

The legislation attempts to offer a solution to the CPIA's cumbersome statutory framework, which currently requires Syria’s government—under whatever form that might be at present—to first ask the State Department for American import controls restricting cultural objects. Recall that the White House recognized the rebels as the legitimate governing authority of the Syrian Arab Republic in 2012.

The proposed Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act, in both substance and procedure, mirrors the Emergency Protection of Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act of 2004 as well as CHL’s 2013 recommendation for an Emergency Protection of Egyptian Cultural Antiquities Act.

It remains to be seen whether the 113th Congress will take up these critical requests for a cultural property policy coordinator or for import controls to protect threatened heritage. Congress is in a lame duck session following the GOP's sweeping election victory earlier this month. Yet the proposed legislation already has been referred to the House Committees on Foreign Affairs, Ways and Means, Armed Services, and Judiciary. The bill's sponsors, more importantly, are well-known fixtures in the House. They hail from from safe districts where constituents regularly vote them back in office by wide margins.

Rep. Engel is the ranking minority member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. He is a liberal Democrat who recently earned a fourteenth term after facing no opponent in a district that encompasses New York’s Westchester County and the Bronx. Rep. Engel is known for his sponsorship of the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act.

Rep. Smith, meanwhile, first arrived on Capitol Hill following the election of 1980. He is a popular conservative Republican representing Trenton and central New Jersey. He possesses expertise on the topics of foreign affairs and organized crime, serving as senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; chair of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe; chair of the Subcommittee on Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations; and chairman of the Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus. Last year Rep. Smith introduced a resolution to establish a Syrian war crimes tribunal.

The full text of H.R. 5703, the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act, can be found here.

Photo credit:

By Rick St. Hilaire Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.

Friday, November 7, 2014

U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch
It is not every day that an attorney general nominee actually has a record of handling cultural property forfeitures and prosecutions. But that is the case with Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Lynch is President Barack Obama's choice to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder.

Lynch's office has handled a few heritage trafficking cases, including...

Lynch's office filed a civil forfeiture complaint last month to forfeit a 65 million year old dinosaur skull. Prosecutors alleged that a fossil dealer unlawfully attempted to import an Alioramus head by failing to declare that it was real, that it originated from Mongolia, and that it had a value of $250,000.

2. U.S. v. One Ancient Roman Sarcophagus Lid with Sculpture of Reclining Woman
Litigation over a sculptured coffin cover came to a successful conclusion in September when Lynch's office finalized an agreement to forfeit the object from a collector so that it could be returned to Italy. The Roman sarcophagus lid was featured as an illicit antiquity in the Becchina archive.

3. U.S. v Victor Gordon
After a federal district court sentenced an ivory smuggler in June to a sentence of 30 months in prison, two years supervised release, a $7500 fine, and the forfeiture of $150,000 plus one ton of elephant ivory, Lynch remarked that “preventing the flow of illegal ivory through and within our borders” is an important American commitment. “This prosecution–which resulted in the seizure and forfeiture of one of the largest known caches of illegal elephant ivory in the United States and the imprisonment of the person who acquired and attempted to profit from it – is emblematic of that commitment.”

4. U.S. v. Khouli et al.
An antiquities trafficking case that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement billed in 2011 as "a ground breaking case for Homeland Security Investigations" ended with mixed results for Lynch's office. Only two out of four men were convicted. One case netted a sentence of house arrest for a New York gallery owner. Another saw a felony charge dropped to a misdemeanor; the defendant paid a fine. Prosecutors later dropped a third man's case after he satisfied a deferred prosecution agreement. And authorities later gave up looking for a fourth man, a fugitive from justice, after litigation came to an abrupt halt in 2013.

Lynch posted a vibrant press statement at the start of the prosecution when her office charged the defendants with conspiring to smuggle ancient artifacts, engaging in money laundering, and making false statements to carry out their crime. She said, "Antiquities dealers and collectors are on notice that the smuggling of cultural patrimony will not be tolerated." But her office's only other press release, issued the following year, was muted and devoid of any direct quotes from the U.S. Attorney.

The objects involved in the case included Egyptian sarcophagi, Iraqi glass vessels and clay relief plaques, and Iranian (Luristani) bronzes.

Photo source: U.S. Department of Justice

By Rick St. Hilaire Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Dr. Victoria Reed and Attorney Rick St. Hilaire answer questions from an audience of legal and cultural heritage professionals at the Daniel Webster International Lawyer of the Year ceremony held in Manchester, NH. Van McLeod, Commissioner of the NH Department of Cultural Resources (pictured at far left), listens with interest.
Photo courtesy of Norman St. Hilaire.

International lawyers gathered last week at the New Hampshire law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green to recognize the positive impact made by international cultural heritage law to protect cultural property around the globe.

The attorneys listened attentively as Victoria Reed keynoted the Daniel Webster International Lawyer of the Year ceremony honoring the contributions made by the CHL blog.

Dr. Reed discussed the global trade in art and antiquities and explained the accessions practice implemented by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), which digs deep into the collecting histories of artifacts. Dr. Reed is the MFA's Sadler Curator for Provenance.

Scrutinizing an object's collecting history and its accompanying import/export documentation is vital, Dr. Reed emphasized. That is because the provenance information offered by a seller or donor may not always be correct. Performing due diligence research therefore is essential to discover the truth about an object's collecting history.

CHL is grateful to the NH Bar Association for acknowledging international cultural heritage law as an important legal discipline.

Attorney Robert Cheney, international law section chair of the NH Bar Association,
recognizes CHL's author as the Daniel Webster International Lawyer of the Year.
Photo courtesy of Dan Wise.

By Rick St. Hilaire
Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

 Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Undersecretary Points to Antiquities Trafficking as a Source of ISIS Funding
David Cohen
Source: U.S. Treasury
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) earns most of its cash from oil revenues, approximately $1 million per day. But the terror group also profits from crimes that include heritage trafficking.

"They lay waste to thousands of years of civilization in Iraq and Syria by looting and selling antiquities," David Cohen said today.

As the federal government's point-man in charge of uncovering and blocking financial support for terrorist groups, Under Secretary Cohen's insight on the topic should be given considerable weight. Since 2011, Attorney Cohen has served as Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the United States Department of the Treasury.

He made the remark about antiquities trafficking funding ISIS at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC.

By Rick St. Hilaire Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Conflict and the Heritage Trade: Rise in U.S. Imports of Middle East "Antiques" and "Collectors' Pieces" Raises Questions
American imports of art, collections and collectors' pieces, and antiques from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey increased sharply between 2011 and 2013, prompting questions about whether trafficked heritage has piggybacked onto the mainstream marketplace.

War, mass looting, and other grave threats to heritage greatly expand the risk that smuggled cultural contraband will slide into the stream of international commerce undetected. Because art and antiquities transactions often lack transparency or fail to undergo rigorous due diligence, examining published trade data is one way to potentially spot trafficked cultural material hiding under the cover of everyday imports.

One region that has witnessed grave threats to cultural heritage is the Middle East. The intelligence community and the academic community both report that antiquities trafficking has generated revenue for the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). More investigation needs to be conducted to measure the scope of the terror group's earnings activity, but the American Schools of Oriental Research and others have confirmed that archaeological site looting has been a wellspring for pillaged artifacts spilling out of Syria and Iraq, a result of both Syria's civil war and ISIS' sprawl. Spoils from the region reportedly have transited through the neighboring countries of Lebanon and Turkey. And in nearby Egypt, the country has suffered its own cultural heritage crisis amid unrest, prompting the nation to petition for an agreement with the United States that would help protect ancient archaeological and ethnological materials in jeopardy.

Given the cultural heritage emergency that has erupted in the Middle East, U.S. International Trade Commission figures documenting an upsurge in imports of Harmonized Tariff Schedule 97 goods from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey flag concerns about whether conflict antiquities have entered America's stream of commerce. HTS 97 is the customs classification for works of art, collectors' pieces and antiques.

Total American imports of HTS 97 goods from the five countries rapidly escalated from $51.1 million in 2011 to $95.2 million in 2013--an astonishing 86% rise. The across-the-board spike can be gleaned from the table below, which displays hefty individual percentage increases of cultural imports from each of the five countries.

Customs Value
U.S. Imports for Consumption

Percent Change
2012 - 2013

In Actual Dollars





Goods declared by importers to be antiques of an age exceeding 100 years (HTS 9706) or collections and collectors' pieces of zoological, botanical, mineralogical, historical, archaeological, numismatic and other interest (HTS 9705) made up large portions of the broader category of HTS 97 imports.*

For example, HTS 97 imports from Egypt totaling $34.1 million in 2013 largely derived from a combination of $19 million worth of objects labeled by importers as antiques over 100 years old and $11.5 million of goods labeled as collections and collectors' pieces.

HTS 97 imports from Syria totaling $11.1 million in 2013 almost entirely came from $11 million worth of goods classified as antiques.

Remarkable too is that 93% of the 2013 total of HTS 97 imports from Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria were declared to be antiques over 100 years old, begging the question of whether nearly $18 million worth of great grandmothers' rocking chairs and similar items were shipped to America or whether the imports may have been ancient archaeological artifacts misclassified as "antiques."

The table below illustrates, among other information, that commodities declared by importers to be antiques from Iraq and Syria rocketed skyward by 672% and 133%, respectively, from 2012 to 2013.

Customs Value
U.S. Imports for Consumption

Percent Change
2012 - 2013

In Actual Dollars

Declared imports of collections and collectors' pieces of zoological, botanical, mineralogical, historical, archaeological, numismatic and other interest goods, meanwhile, grew from $8.9 million in 2011, to $10.8 million in 2012, and then to $19 million in 2013--the final amount constituting a 113% jump from 2011 through 2013. The table below breaks down the individual numbers that chart this ascent. What kinds of objects actually made up these "collections and collectors' pieces?

Customs Value
U.S. Imports for Consumption

Percent Change
2012 - 2013

In Actual Dollars

Traffickers have imported cultural material into the U.S. in clever ways in the past, surreptitiously labeling Hindu idols as "handicrafts," affixing "Made in Thailand" stickers on ancient Ban Chiang pots to make them appear modern, or manipulating the description of a Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton from Mongolia on customs documentation. That is why scrutinizing the art, collectors pieces, and antiques that underlie the customs data described above would go far toward confirming or dispelling the suspicion that smuggled ancient artifacts from the Mideast may have been embedded within America's conventional global trade.

Among the questions requiring answers are what kinds of objects were specifically imported, and why did imports of "antiques" and "collectors' pieces" skyrocket in many instances? Were the imports classified properly or improperly? Who were the importers of record, and where did they sell their merchandise? Who were the buyers? What can the customs forms reveal about the commodities' actual countries of origin and their transshipment locations?

Data source: U.S. International Trade Commission Interactive Trade DataWeb (USITC DataWeb), as compiled by the Commission from official data retrieved from the U.S. Bureau of the Census (accessed October 2014).

Copyright note: Although the data presented here is sourced from publicly available information, it has been carefully selected, coordinated, arranged, and analyzed so that it is subject to copyright as a compilation by CHL. The publication, retransmission, or broadcast of this compiled data is strictly prohibited without CHL's express consent.

Photo credit: Svilen Milev

*Import data is reported to U.S. Customs and Border Protection by the owner, purchaser, or licensed broker of the consignee. They file the entry documents, not the customs officials who are unable to inspect and document every cargo shipment. So whether cultural commodities are properly classified as HTS 9705 archaeological material or HTS 9706 antiques is the responsibility of the importer. In fact whether imports are falsely classified so that they can be smuggled across the border or mistakenly classified because of a judgment error is a function of the importing party. The import classification process is a self-reporting system, part of a shared compliance program overseen by U.S. Customs that obliges the trade community to regulate itself and follow federal law. Shared compliance allows the U.S. to competitively engage the world in global commerce. But smugglers will try to exploit the gaps and loopholes.

By Rick St. Hilaire

Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.

Monday, September 22, 2014

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: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.