Wednesday, 5 July 2017

'Settlement' in Hobby Lobby Smuggled Artefacts Case

'we recognize that while some may
put a price on these artifacts
, the people of Iraq
consider them priceless,
' (Angel Melendez, special agent
who led the investigation with the United States Attorney's Office).

In the US, Hobby Lobby has agreed to a settlement with the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York over the case of the smuggling of ancient clay artefacts from modern-day Iraq into the United States (Chris Boyette,'Hobby Lobby to pay $3 million fine, forfeit smuggled ancient artifacts. CNN July 6, 2017).
According to court documents, Hobby Lobby agreed to forfeit thousands of Iraqi artifacts and pay a $3 million fine to resolve the civil action the Justice Department brought against the company. Ancient cuneiform tablets and clay bullae from modern-day Iraq were smuggled into the United States through the United Arab Emirates and Israel, Justice officials said. With Hobby Lobby's consent they were falsely labeled as 'ceramics' and 'samples' and illegally shipped to Hobby Lobby stores and two corporate offices, according to the DOJ. 
These imports were made as part of the massive series of purchases Hobby Lobby had begun in 2009, acquiring a variety of historical Bibles and other artefacts as an expression of  'the company's mission and passion for the Bible', as a Hobby Lobby statement puts it:
'We should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled,' Hobby Lobby President Steve Green said in the statement. 'Hobby Lobby has cooperated with the government throughout its investigation, and with the announcement of today's settlement agreement, is pleased the matter has been resolved'. Green and a consultant traveled to the United Arab Emirates in July 2010 to inspect the artifacts for sale, the DOJ said. Despite warnings from a cultural property law expert the company hired, Hobby Lobby went forward with a deal to buy 5,548 artifacts for $1.6 million in December 2010, a deal "fraught with red flags," the DOJ said.
Jesus ate with tax collectors, this report suggests that Mr Green held meetings with culture criminals. Who was the 'consultant', and how was the meeting set up? How (if at all) did this transaction differ from any of the other whidch resulted in newly-surfaced artefacts enter the Green/Hobby Lobby collection which will soon form the exhibits in the Bible Museum (apart from this one being questioned by the DoJ)? Obviously it is very much in the interest of everybody (including the 'Green Scholars' who will be handling this material) that the 'Bible Museum' is fully transparent about where each of the items that will be on display comes from, how it entered the market and Green collection, and then how it entered the USA. Or has the Green Collection got something it wants to hide about some of the other artefacts where the acquirers 'should have exercised more oversight'?

 Hat tip, John Curtiss

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