Wednesday, February 26, 2014

CPIA-Related Obstruction Case Concludes with Probation, a Fine, and Forfeiture of Chinese Cultural Objects

Sentencing of a Chinese artifacts dealer and his company for obstruction of justice took place last week in the Southern District of Florida. The U.S. Attorney in Miami commenced the prosecution when the defendants tried to thwart import restrictions authorized by the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA).

In the cases of U.S. v. Francois B. Lorin and U.S. v. Lorin & Son, LLC, federal district court judge Jose E. Martinez fined Lorin & Son (doing business as Asiantiques) $25,000 plus an assessment of $400. He also placed the company's manager, Francois Lorin, on probation for a period of three years, imposing a special condition that he "shall provide complete access to financial information, including disclosure of all business and personal finances, to the U.S. Probation Officer."

Today, the court issued a further order forfeiting 22 Chinese objects seized from the defendants in 2011. The forfeiture is part of the plea agreement reached between the parties this past December.

Prosecutors say that the defendants supplied fake paperwork to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in an effort to convince authorities that the Chinese artifacts arrived in the U.S. prior to the enactment of a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and China. That bilateral agreement, also known an MoU, was adopted in 2009 under authority of the CPIA. It restricts imports of designated archaeological materials from China unless specifically authorized. Import restrictions enacted under the U.S.-China MoU were renewed by the President last month.

If the defendants could show that the archaeological objects to be imported were located in the U.S. prior to January 14, 2009—the enactment date of the U.S.-China MoU—then the archaeological objects could be re-imported with little difficulty. So when the defendants offered fraudulently backdated customs paperwork to prove that the goods were in the U.S. as early as May 9, 2006, Miami's top federal prosecutor charged the defendants with obstruction under 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2). The U.S. Attorney's office further alleged to the court that the defendants declared false values for the imports and failed to declare some others. Fuller details of the facts can be found here and here

When sentencing Francois Lorin, Judge Martinez agreed to depart downward from the federal sentencing guidelines, a move supported by both the government and the defense. That is to say that the court agreed with the parties' recommendation that a term of probation could be imposed on the 75 year old defendant without sending him to prison.

Today's court order describes the objects forfeited to the government as part of the plea deal reached with the government:
  • Nephrite Jade “Bi” Disk composed of Three “Huang” from the Neolithic or Shang Dynasty.
  • Nephrite jade “Bi” disk composed of three Huang from the late Shang or Western Zhou Dynasty.
  • Pan Bronze Footed Tray with Two handles from the Archaic-Zhou Dynasty, first millennium BC.
  • Nephrite Jade Insignia Blade from the Late Neolithic Period.
  • Lion and Grapevine mirror with elaborate wood.
  • Nephrite Jade “Bi” Disk from the Han Dynasty.
  • Nephrite Jade “Bi” Disk from the Han Dynasty.
  • Three-part Nephrite Jade “Bi” Disk from the Shang Dynasty.
  • Gold and Silver Inlaid Bronze Cylindrical Lidded Container from the Late Zhou Dynasty.
  • Nephrite Jade Phoenix from the Warring States Period.
  • Nephrite Jade Bird hand piece from the Neolithic Period, possibly Hongshan culture.
  • Nephrite Jade model of a pig from the Han Period.
  • Nephrite Jade Falcon-type Bird from the Neolithic Period, said to be Hong Shan.
  • Nephrite Jade “humanoid'' Figure from the Shang Dynasty.
  • Nephrite Jade Three-pong Attachment from the Neolithic Period, perhaps Liangzhu Culture, 5th 6th Millennium BC or Hongshan Culture, 5th-3rd Millennium BC.
  • Nephrite Jade “Bi”' Form from the Warring States.
  • Nephrite Jade Fish Toggle from the Neolithic Period.
  • Bronze and Nephrite Jade Lidded Container (“Lian'') from the Han Dynasty, Early Western Han, Xang.
  • Archaic, yellow jade blade from the Han Dynasty or earlier.
  • Bronze mirror with fish and birds from the Tang Dynasty.
  • Four Chinese Bronze weapons or articles of adornment from an undetermined Period, possibly Qin-Han Period. Pre-907 AD.
  • Bronze mirror with fish and birds from the Tang Dynasty.

Photo credit: Jason Morrison

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