Saturday, 16 February 2013

Conflict of Interest in CPAC Deliberations?

For some reason the CPAC contains representatives of 'the Trade', while the parallel Review Committee of NAGPRA does not. In its current form, one of the members of the CPAC is Jane A. Levine, the senior vice president and worldwide compliance director for Sotheby’s. The "Chasing Aphrodite" blog twice mentions her involvement in the "Sotheby's-Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa" Koh Ker statue case. Now the CPAC is deliberating over the renewal of the Cambodia bilateral MOU, it is not really all that surprising that the Cambodian government is dismayed by her participation in the discussion. The CPAC is due to meet to discuss the Cambodian matter this month and next month.

It transpires that way back last autumn, a letter was sent on the matter to the State Department (which administers the CPAC) by Him Chhem, Cambodia’s minister of culture and fine arts. He reportedly requested that Ms Levine recuse herself from CPAC deliberations on import restrictions for Cambodian antiquities due to the possibilities of a conflict of interest. The letter was not publicly released, and it is not known if any answer was sent.
Sotheby’s said in a statement that Ms. Levine would not attend the meeting this month because of a scheduling conflict. But the company declined to comment on whether she had recused herself in the fall or would take part in any continuing discussions [...] A Sotheby’s spokesman, Andrew P. Gully, said Ms. Levine could not comment further, given State Department restrictions on discussions of the panel’s deliberations [...] State Department officials would not discuss whether Ms. Levine had recused herself. Susan R. Pittman, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said the fall meetings had been closed sessions. “As a result, we have no information to provide to you, including the attendance at the meeting,” she said. Rick A. Ruth, a senior official with the department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which oversees the panel, said reasons for private sessions included a wish to encourage freewheeling debate; the need to keep negotiating strategies secret; and the fear that organized traffickers would step up looting in advance of legal restrictions.
Those restrictions on discussing CPAC business outside presumably do not apply to ACCG-friend Kislak...  I've no idea what induced Mr Ruth to make the lame excuse about "organized traffickers stepping up looting in advance of legal restrictions"  It seems even the US State Department is confused about what it actually is that their outdated and inconsistent cultural property protection laws do and do not do.  The MOUs of the US CCPIA only control exports of items (through scrutiny of the US market's imports), not their digging up/production. They'd be shifting more of their warehoused stock into ships to the US before any new restrictions make it more difficult to sell over there - once they have been brought undetected into the US, there are no restrictions on their sale, it's getting it across the border that is the problem for dodgy dealers (and that is why some dugup antiquity dealers' associations are fighting the stepping up of border scrutiny on imports of ancient artefacts).

Tom Mashberg, 'Cambodia Sees Ethical Conflict in Import Panel', New York Times February 15, 2013.

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