Friday, July 15, 2011

Bad Paperwork

You might not know it from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") publicity machine or the musings of archaeobloggers Gill and Barford, but the indictment in United States v. Khouli, et al., really comes down to the issue of whether the Defendants submitted proper paperwork to the Government when they imported Egyptian artifacts from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The main issues relate to declarations of country of origin and value of the merchandise in question. But it remains to be seen whether the government is able to prove "scienter" or "guilty knowledge"as to either. There is confusion in the trade and even Customs itself as to what to put into the "country of origin" box when it comes to ancient art. In addition, values of ancient artifacts are based on the purchase price in an arms length transaction. Dealers buy low and sell high. And sometimes the government has been known to fib as to the value of the artifacts that are seized (in addition to claiming that they are priceless).

Troublingly though, this does appear to be a major expansion of the government's war on collecting. This is usually the stuff of civil forfeiture actions, not criminal claims. Moreover, I'm not aware of collectors being subject to criminal charges in the past.

For the ICE press release, see


kyri said...

come on peter,these are highly inteligent and sophisticated people,they knew exactly what they were doing.they have been dealing in ancient art for years and have no a collector it is dealers like this that give the hobby a bad name and unfortunately it is the honest dealers who will pay the consequences with further crackdowns and collectors risk having their pieces which may have false provenances confiscated.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Really, are you so sure? Have you ever imported anything commerially? Let's just wait and see what develops and only judge then.