Monday, August 18, 2014

Video Raises More Serious Questions About NY District Attorney's Office's Priorities

video has surfaced raising further serious questions about the New York DA's decision to give valuable Greek coins to the Greek government rather than to a New York institution or selling them for the benefit of the New York state taxpayer.

In it, Cyrus Vance, the DA, first thanks Assistant DA Matthew Bogdanos, the office's "resident expert on all things Greek," who is leaving for vacation in the country.  (Video at around 1:08)

He then notes that the coins were forfeited as part of a plea deal in which Arnold Peter Weiss, a prominent hand-surgeon, collector and coin dealer, also had to write an essay about the dangers of collecting unprovenanced coins.  (Video at around 2:51)  For more about this coerced essay, see here.

Vance then indicates the commercial value of the Greek coins exceeds $200,000.  (Video at around 1:27). He then notes that Peter Weiss forfeited the Greek coins as part of a plea deal relating to other coins Weiss admitted were illicitly removed from Italy. (Video at around 3:04).   These coins later turned out to be clever forgeries.

As for the reason to send the coins abroad, Vance states that it's "a small price to pay" because Greece has given us democracy, astronomy and the Olympics. (Video at around 4:30)

The Greek Ambassador then thanks Vance for the windfall, asserts his country's "ethical rights" to returns, and invites Vance and all involved in the repatriation to visit the coins at their new home in his country.  (Video at around 8:17)

He then especially thanks Assistant DA Bogdanos for the efforts and his work with Greek officials.  (Video at around 8:30).

The problem with all this, of course, is that the interests of the New York taxpayer seem to have been entirely forgotten in favor of the interests of Bogdanos' beloved Greece, a foreign power, the Archaeological Institute of America, an organization Bogdanos favors, and their repatriationist agenda.

But why?  Perhaps the Vance and Bogdanos should write their own essay where they explain themselves.

Or, better yet, put them in a room full of chalk boards, and require them to write, "I work for the New York taxpayer and their interests come first" over and over again-- maybe 200,000 times for each dollar lost to the New York Treasury.


CPO has now located the court approved forfeiture stipulation in the Weiss case.  It sets forth the provenance of the coins, including the provenance of a Dicea stater which dates back to the Weber collection, circa 1890's.   The stipulation authorizes the coins to be donated to "a museum or other cultural institution" if no other claimant comes forward, but does not mention whether the interests of New York's tax payers have been considered or explicitly raise the possibility that the coins could be sent abroad.  CPO wonders, therefore, whether the court was adequately informed before approving such a stipulation.  Moreover, questions remain whether New York taxpayer's interests were considered and why it was decided to send the coins abroad to Greece rather than some institution in New York, like the ANS. 

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