Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Israel Accuses U.S. Man of Antiquities Trafficking

Judge Waddoups says looting and disrespectful treatment of archaeological sites, including 'injun' burial sites is OK in Utah, so it need not surprise us that when some Utahans go abroad, they see nothing wrong with supporting destructive local looting and grave robbing. The Israel Antiquities Authority said Tuesday that they had arrested a U.S. tour guide, 'educator' and author from Utah on suspicion of trafficking antiquities stolen from Israel and attempting to smuggle antiques valued at tens of thousands of dollars out of the country. John Lund, is accused of selling stolen artifacts to tour groups he led in Israel, and was detained on Monday night at Israel’s international airport as he was trying to leave the country as a result of a joint Israeli Antiquities Authority and customs operation.
The antiquities authority said in a statement that he had stolen ancient coins in his possession and checks totaling more than $20,000 believed to be from the illegal sales of ancient coins, clay oil lamps, and glass and pottery vessels. Lund was allowed to leave after posting a $7,500 bond meant to guarantee he will return to stand trial, said Shai Bar Tura, deputy director of the authority’s theft prevention unit. Bar Tura said formal charges are expected.
The joint operation began two weeks ago when the Antiquities Authority theft prevention unit inspectors discovered that Lund had been selling ancient artefacts at a lecture he had given in a Jerusalem hotel to tour groups visiting Israel from the US. He was detained, the artefacts were seized, and the authorities searched Lund and his hotel room, where they apparently found and seized hundreds of artefacts which it was suspected had been dug up and stolen from various archaeological sites throughout the country by thieves. At the time it was thought appropriate to let Lund off with a warning. Sadly it seems he acquired a new stock of goods and carried on doing what he had been told not to. Trading antiquities without a licence is illegal in Israel.

As a result of surveillance of a tour group he was leading recently, officials at the Israeli border with Egypt at the Taba crossing in Eilat halted the tourists at the crossing and examined the bags of members and discovered 50 stolen items - alerting them to the fact they were suspected for involvement in illegal trade and export. Among the artefacts found in the tourists' suitcases were ancient silver and bronze coins from the Second Temple period (2,000 years old), ceramic lamps from the Roman and Byzantine period and various glass and ceramic utensils. The tourists said that Lund had sold the items to them. An arrest warrant was issued and Lund was arrested at Ben Gurion Airport where he was trying to leave Israel. When his bags were opened, in his possession officials reportedly found ancient coins and 70 cheques written to him by tourists (70 cheques for $20 000 - that is $260 average each customer). According to a statement by the Authority Lund admitted the offences attributed to him Lund could face up to three years in jail if convicted. He was released and allowed to fly back to the USA on bail of $7500. He is scheduled to be leading more "Funforless" tours in the near future.
The head of the theft prevention unit at the Antiquities Authority Amir Ganor said at the conclusion of the operation that "those who purchase artifacts from unauthorized sources at exorbitant prices are endangering themselves, their money and encouraging artifact theft and robbing the country of its history.
.The source of the coins with description cards should be traceable, the "widow's mite" (I assume it is, they do Pontius Pilat prutahs too) in an olive wood case is a well-known antiqui-geegaw, sold in huge quantities to the gullible collector or believer on the Internet, the source and packaging seems to be Israeli (Moriah, North of Ayalon, Israel 99785)

Dr. Lund [...] is described as having a unique combination of gospel knowledge, deep spirituality, and has a delightful sense of humor. I guess 'thou shalt not deal in stolen goods' simply is not in the book of Mormon. Are we taking bets on whether he goes back to Israel to face the consequences or decides to forfeit the seven and a half thousand from the profits he has made from selling this stuff? Or will he go back and defend himself by showing that its "OK" because the objects were looted outside Israel and he has the receipts to prove it? So how many looted and illegally sold artefacts have entered the US over the years with tourists that went on a tour with Dr Lund? Let us note there were seventy cheques in his bag, but only 50 artefacts recovered this time (not all of the group left Israel through Eilat), and what about previous trips?

Jerusalem - Israel Accuses U.S. Man of Antiquities Trafficking AP - 18th May 2011.
(getting a lot of coverage, "Israel accuses US man of antiquities trafficking" 5700 hits for this article title alone).

Zvi Lavi, 'US professor suspected of selling stolen artifacts', Israel News, 18.05.11

Photo, display by Eilat customs of coins lamps and pots found in Lund's possession.


Damien Huffer said...

Mormon themed tours, no less?! Bloody hell...

Paul Barford said...

Did yo see the ones they didto Mesoamerica? Weird. I have never really got to grips with the Book of Mormon...

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