Friday, 3 May 2013

Commercial Interests and the Munich Judiciary

Nichts Gutes aus München
Considering the coverage and the interpretations being given to a recent decision on the Munich Bundesfinanzhof (Federal Fiscal Court), I thought it would be worth reposting  Rick St Hilaire's recent comment on the matter here 'on top', in order to give the coineys a chance to challenge it:
 The Federal Finance Court opinion is narrow in scope. The court reaffirms that ancient coins can be archaeological objects. So in this case it was looking for evidence that the 32 undescribed ancient coins and medals were archaeological objects. But the court found that the customs house and the State Museum either offered no evidence or inconclusive evidence that the items in question were archaeological. The ruling still upholds the proposition that ancient coins, which are archaeological objects, require export permits
For details see St Hilaire's own blog post: 'German High Court Rules No Export Permit Required in Case Where No Evidence Offered That Ancient Coins & Medals Were Regulated Archaeological Goods', Wednesday, May 1, 2013.

It seems to me that over in Germany, somebody has gone to great trouble to set this up. German preservationists are arguing for stronger control of the German trade in dugup antiquities in general which is getting out of hand. There is however the suspicion that the Bavarian judges and politicians might not be being entirely objective when it comes to decisions affecting the interests of the strong lobby  including the Munich coin dealers. If that is so, then the outcome of this case is not surprising. It would be interesting to know which members of the Bavarian judiciary are collectors of coins or other antiquities. I bet there are at least some.

It would therefore be interesting to know the route by which this decision reached the dugup coin dealers (Sayles and Welsh) and their lobbyist (Tompa) in the US so quickly, who commissioned the sworn translation in New York and for whose money (and to what ends). What business contacts do these people have with the German coin dealers behind this stunt? They are always banging on about the need for "transparency", let's see some up-front from them.

Let it be noted that St Hilaire states openly that he received a copy of this text (unsolicited?) from Dr. Hubert Lanz, president of the Federation of European Numismatic Trade Associations. Readers will remember that it was this group that was associated with the recent statements by the Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs, Infrastructure, Transport and Technology Martin Zeile, rejecting attempts to combat the flow of illegally exported dugup antiquities like coins across its borders. It would seem that, despite the best efforts of preservationists, Bavaria is becoming a real "Looter's Paradise". The tenor of this latest  court case to emerge from the political milieu over there does not bode well for the future of the continent's (or indeed world) archaeological heritage. Perhaps it is time for German archaeologists to take a firmer stand over state policy.


Cultural Property Observer said...

Not surprisingly, you are in denial about the implications of Court's ruling: “coins coming from Antiquity generally have no archeological value and thus are not archeological objects”. It doesn’t come much clearer than that. Nor is this “the Bavarian judiciary” as you would like to believe; it is the supreme court of Germany for cases involving customs and taxes.

As for claimed corruption by commercial interests, I suggest that you compare what Transparency International says about Germany and places whose views of cultural property matters you champion, like Greece, Cyprus, Italy and China.

Finally, coineys like old stuff, but they also have the latest communications equipment like email. It's not surprising that German coineys would email the decision to their US counterparts.

Paul Barford said...

1) "Antike Münzen können archäologische Gegenstände sein, does not come clearer than THAT, and you say I am the one in "in denial"?

2) As Rick St Hilaire points out (write to him if you disagree) the ruling refers to one specific batch of coins - your German friends neglected to email you what they were, seventeenth century half-talars and medallions of Brandenburg maybe?

3) Court in Bavaria, not Berlin or Hamburg, counts as "Bavarian judiciary" in my book, and how many of the Munich legal profession collect dugup ancient coins? I think it not an irrelevant question.

4) Your attempts to dismiss my comments on the meaning of the German decision being sent direct to the ACCG and the use they make of it have been noted.

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