Sunday, 30 July 2017

Jerusalem Dealers Arrested in US-prompted Bust

In a rare case when foreign dealers supplying goods to the US market have been nabbed, five antiquities dealers in East Jerusalem have been busted for large-scale  tax offences say Israeli police (Israeli police: Jerusalem antiquity dealers arrested for con). On Sunday, the houses and offices of the suspects were raided and a police spokesman says that luxury cars and about $200,000 in cash were confiscated. The police also seized some of the stock of the dealers:
The antiquities seized included ancient parchment pieces written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin, as well as ancient weapons, sculptures from the Hellenistic and Roman periods; high-level murals; pottery and figurines; and many bronze, silver and gold coins.
The raids were connected with investigations carried out by American law enforcement agencies who obtained information on Israeli antiquity dealers who had issued fake receipts and invoices over the past seven years, and this led to an undercover operation of the Israeli authorities that exposed the scheme.
“The investigation revealed that the volume of the transactions exceeded $20 million, and that the invoices issued by the suspects helped an American agent to receive large-scale tax refunds, with part of that amount returned to the suspects,” police said in a statement. “This information led to the opening of a covert investigation in which much evidence was collected using advanced technological means, leading to the establishment of an evidentiary infrastructure against the suspects.” [...] “This is a large-scale investigation against large-scale taxation, forgery and money-laundering offenses, using antiquities of unknown origin, which was carried out in full cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Tax Authority,” he added. Upon their arrest, the suspects were brought in for questioning at the Fraud Unit in Jerusalem, where they were interrogated on suspicion of tax offenses, money laundering and forgery of documents. After being questioned, all five men were arraigned at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, where a judge ordered their remand amid the ongoing investigation.
Photos of some of the antiquities being offered by these guys are circulating in the internet.  If these objects are indeed what these sellers were offering, in my opinion the alleged tax dodges would not the only dodgy caveat-for-goodness-sake-emptor business these guys were up to their necks in.

Rhyton-like thing, a la Hogwarts. I presume
it is supposed to be Achaemenid - certainly
not a functional drinking vessel

Not-very-convincing knocked-off head,
look at the goggle-eyes

Totally unconvincing 'ancient documents' ,
not very convincing handwriting

It is interesting to note that these dealers were selling goods within the US, perhaps to US dealers. What due diligence was done by the buyers? Still , at least we are getting some trans-border arrests in a US antiquities bust. Let us hope that business documents seized can be used to trace any collectors in the US who have broken the law.

See also: 

For what it's worth, Lynda Albertson‏ notes that the photos from IAA allegedly from the stock of the people being investigated can be traced to the website of known dealer Baidun. Are they among the dealers detained, or have the media just taken images of generic 'antiquities sold by Jerusalem dealers' to illustrate their article? 
The Baidun name has been involved with antiquities business for over 80 years. Founded by Mahmud Baidun, the Baidun business enjoys a reputable and respected name. Baidun Galleries, located on Jerusalem’s historic Via Dolorosa, house a carefully chosen collection that distinguishes us as one of the country’s leading dealers in rare and exquisite antiquities. Specializing in all types of antiquities from the Iron Age to the Ottoman Empire, The Baidun collection contains works from every major Levant civilization: Canaanite, Phoenician, Israelite, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Persian, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Islamic. With a customer list ranging from world-leaders, prominent businessmen, museums and auctions, we will to assist you in creating the antiquities collection of your interest.
Thanks, but no thanks.

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