Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Another Bataar Skull to Be Repatriated, but Was it "Stolen?"

The Feds have made another fossil dealer an offer he could not refuse--  give us your Tyrannosaurs Bataar Skull, plead guilty to smuggling, pay a fine and almost all will be forgiven.  The problem with all of this is that serious questions remain about claims that such fossils are "stolen" from Mongolia, i.e., does Mongolia have a law that vests absolute title of all such fossils in the Mongolian state that is actively enforced at home?


Paul Barford said...

Why is the question not about how it moved from one country to the next? That's what "smuggling" is about surely?

Cultural Property Observer said...

There is a bate and switch going on. Hype the "stolen" property aspect of it and then actually get the owner to cave based on alleged misrepresentations on a customs form. What's more significant? Such misrepresentations or misrepresentations State bureaucrats have made to the US Congress and the public about import restrictions. Yet, one leads to criminal liability and the loss of assets and the other? Nothing as far as I can determine.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Sorry, "bait and switch" of course.

Paul Barford said...

I think you are adding confusion here. The fact is that the charge was conspiracy to commit smuggling under 18 U.S.C. §§ 371 and 545. This concerns "whoever knowingly and willfully, with intent to defraud the United States....), not stealing from anyone else.

It seems that 18 U.S.C. § 371 refers to "conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing or defeating the lawful function of any department of government"

The idea is "to protect the integrity of the United States and its agencies, programs and policies", (

So it's nothing to do with stealing from another country, but about upholding the interests and integrity of the US - something I think a lot of US citizens are very concerned about.

Cultural Property Observer said...

I understand your point, but these cases are hyped as stolen property cases in the press, which was the point of the bait and switch comment.