Sunday, 15 November 2015

Florida antiquities dealer pleads guilty to smuggling artifacts from grave sites in Pakistan

"McNamara is scheduled to be
sentenced Jan. 29, and he faces a maximum
possible penalty of five years in prison, though
federal sentencing guidelines will probably call for a shorter term

A US dealer did a deal and was the intended recipient of 1,350 artifacts “of the type that are typically found in ancient tombs that date from 6,000-years-old to 500-years-old” in the region of modern Pakistan. The shipment of "bronze and iron axes, spears, arrowheads, swords and daggers" was due to go through Dulles International Airport, but there was a problem as he admitted "that he [...] did not always seek the appropriate approvals" (so how many of the 1350 artefacts he wanted to introduce to the US market had the appropriate approvals"?):
A Florida dealer who bought and sold fossils and artifacts [...] admitted Friday that he helped smuggle relics from Pakistani grave sites and sold some of them for profit. John Bryan McNamara, 51, who lives in the Orlando area, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Alexandria to a smuggling conspiracy charge, acknowledging in an agreement with prosecutors that he had worked with Pakistanis to import antiquities from their country into the United States in a way that would not draw unwanted from customs officers. [...] According to his plea agreement, though, McNamara did not have the proper approvals to import some of the antiquities, and he and the two Pakistani men tried to evade scrutiny — in one instance, according to the plea agreement, claiming a shipment that was worth more than $20,000 had a value of $500. [...] But McNamara [...] admitted that he and the others conspired to create fake documents indicating that their shipments had Pakistani government approval, and that he lied to U.S. Homeland Security investigators looking into the matter. The two people with whom he worked are not named in the plea agreement and have not been publicly charged. [...] McNamara said he now plans to transition out of the antiquities business.
Matt Zapotosky,'Fla. dealer pleads guilty to smuggling artifacts from grave sites in Pakistan' The Washington Post November 13 2015.

Of course (he claims), he was doing it not to make money, but like all of them he did it altruistically to "increase knowledge": 

In a conversation with a reporter after his plea, McNamara said one of the men had reached out to him from out of the blue, and he was interested initially because that region of the world was a “huge area for ancient trade,” possibly offering scientifically significant materials that had “never been studied.” “It was intriguing,” McNamara said. [...] He said he did not think initially that what he was doing was illegal and, in some ways, thought he was rescuing precious materials.
Yes, "studying" ancient trade by selling bits of the evidence off to scattered and random people in a modern trade network involving culture crimnals. Right. Surely, knowing what is and is not illegal in any line of activity in which we become involved is a fundamental piece not only of business knowledge but also a life skill which we all should have.  Of course, we all understand that the "problems with the paperwork" (as always) were only due to the object being declared at a lower level to avoid ccrooked US postal workers being tempted to nick it in transit - that's what the dealers' lobbyist Tompa insists.

McNamara  [...] worries that the valuable antiquities he imported will now “be thrown into a pot and neglected.” by the US authorities].
He should not then have brought them into such a "dangerous environment", should he? In fact, the loose decontextualised artefacts will probably be forfeited and repatriated.

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