Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Newly unsealed antiquities trafficking charges detail an alleged Cambodian smuggling network.

CPIA enforcement, the "CPIA Embargo," and statute of limitations are some of the legal issues presented by the grand jury indictment.

A federal grand jury in Manhattan has handed up a 26 page indictment detailing an alleged cultural heritage trafficking network that stretched from Cambodia to America's antiquities market. Grand jurors charged Douglas Latchford,
a preeminent collector and dealer of Cambodian artifacts, with five counts, including(1) wire fraud conspiracy; (2) conspiracy to commit smuggling, entry of goods by false statement, interstate transportation of stolen property, sale and receipt of stolen property; (3) wire fraud; (4) smuggling; and (5) entry of goods by means of false statements.

An indictment simply is notice of a criminal charge. A defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty by prosecutors beyond a reasonable doubt.

Latchford indictment
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman brought
the indictment against Douglas Latchford.
Both the indictment and arrest warrant issued against the 88 year old Latchford, also known as Pakpong Kriangsak, were unsealed by magistrate judge Robert Lehrburger of the Southern District of New York (SDNY) following a November 26 request by prosecutors. The grand jury charged the defendant on October 17.

Usually prosecutors ask the court's permission to seal an indictment pursuant to FRCP 6(e)(4) so that a fugitive is not tipped off. The indictment ordinarily becomes unsealed after the defendant's arrest. But a press release issued by U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman's office last week confirms that Latchford "remains at large, residing in Thailand." The United States has a treaty of extradition with that nation.

The unsealing of the indictment and the simultaneous release of the news bulletin last week likely were meant to help expedite the defendant's arrest; to alert dealers, collectors, and other art market participants of the charges; and/or to stave off a possible speedy trial or due process challenge by Latchford if he is apprehended at a later date. That is because the government must avoid unreasonable delay when trying to locate a fugitive. Importantly, a defendant who does not know that he has been indicted and is captured several years after being charged might successfully argue that he has been denied the right to a speedy trial as was the case in Doggett v. United States, 505 U.S. 647 (1992). So publicizing the indictment helps the prosecution.

The unsealed indictment alleges that Latchford "engaged in a scheme to sell looted Cambodian antiquities on the international art market, including to dealers and buyers in the United States." It goes on to explain:
As part of that scheme, in order to conceal that LATCHFORD'S antiquities were the product of looting, unauthorized excavation, and illicit smuggling, and to encourage sales and increase the value of his merchandise, LATCHFORD created and caused the creation of false provenance for the antiquities he was selling. ... As part of the scheme, LATCHFORD also falsified invoices and related shipping documents to facilitate the international shipment of the antiquities to dealers and buyers ....
Count one specifically accuses Latchford of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, contending that from 2000-2012 he "engaged in a scheme to sell looted Cambodian antiquities by creating and causing others to create, and transmitting by means of international and interstate wire, false provenance, invoice, and shipping documents that concealed and misrepresented the source, country of origin, prior owner(s), age, and/or attribution of such antiquities." The defendant is alleged to have committed these acts, which earned payments transmitted via wire, "in order to induce the sale and transport of such antiquities to buyers in the United States and elsewhere, and to obtain the proceeds of such sales...."