Thursday 10 November 2011

Six Trade Organizations Submit Briefs to Appellate Court Over Illegal Coin Imports

Dugup ancient antiquity dealer Wayne Sayles, 'Organizations submit Amici Briefs to Appellate Court', fellow dugup dealer Dave Welsh ('Baltimore Test Case Amicus Brief Texts') and the coin dealers' lobbyist, lawyer Peter Tompa ('ACCG Gains Support for Appeal') report in unison that "Six prestigious organizations support ACCG appeal with formal legal briefs". Reportedly, here is the announcement as presented on the ACCG website, sourced to Washington legal firm Bailey and Ehrenberg PLLC:
Several leading international numismatic organizations have petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for leave to file an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief supporting ACCG's appeal of the Cyprus/China import restriction challenge. That case was recently dismissed in Circuit Court at Baltimore and is currently under appeal. Ironically, a concerted international response of this sort is mandated by the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) before import restrictions may be imposed. It has never materialized in that regard and is one of the very points challenged by ACCG in the suit being appealed. As a technical matter, the motion for leave is submitted along with the brief itself. Below are the organizations involved and copies of the motions and briefs filed on their behalf:
American Committee for Cultural Policy (ACCP) / International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA) Motion -- Brief

International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN)/ American Numismatic Association (ANA) / Ancient Coins for Education (ACE) Motion -- Brief

Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) Motion -- Brief
We learn from Tompa that the motions and briefs were submitted by Richard Rogers, Esq. (ACCP/ IADAA); Michael McCullough, Esq. (IAPN /ANA/ ACE) and those of the PNG by Armen Vartian, Esq. and that "each brief focuses on the failure of the District Court to apply the plain meaning of the CPIA's limitation on import restrictions to coins "first discovered within, and [ ] subject to the export control by" either Cyprus or China", when it seems to me that this was not the basis of the original court's ruling on the wide range of disparate topics raised by the case the ACCG's lawyers tried to bring.

Well (at least), two interesting things here. The first is surprise to see the ACCP raise its head again so long after we all had got the impression that it was dead. The secondly is surprise at the description of the coiney show-and-tell stunt which goes under the name "Ancient Coins for education" as a "prestigious" organization.

New York-based firm "Grebkesh and Runn, Purvoyors of Fine looted Coins to the Trade and Avid Collectors" have contacts with two family-run supply firms in the Balkans, the Moronovs and the Sleazyovs. The Moronovs, as their name suggests are a bit simple. they know the US has laws against importing looted stuff, but count on the border authorities being asleep most of the time, they've shipped packages of coins and dugup antiquities direct from Sofia through to their US contacts for years. Tonnes of it. They've only lost one or two shipments here and there. So they carry on putting them in unmarked parcels and sending them through. The Sleazyovs are a little more canny, they have an arrangement with their customers that they will 'launder' their goods by getting them smuggled in a lorry in hollowed-out pumpkins across the Turkish border and ship them to the US from there. While Turkey has no MOU with the US, the packages will not be checked, and even if they are, the coins come "from Turkey", not any country with which the US has any MOU.

It seems to me that, despite codes of ethics/practice/ professional standards, the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art, International Association of Professional Numismatists, American Numismatic Association, and Professional Numismatists Guild not to mention the ACCP and ACE are saying that as far as the US market is concerned, trading in looted coins with the Sleazyovs is and should be legal - even though the US has been "implementing" the 1970 UNESCO Convention on Illicit Antiquities since 1983. Would the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art, International Association of Professional Numismatists, American Numismatic Association, and Professional Numismatists Guild expel any of their members for handling artefacts that have been 'laundered' by escaping legal consequences by illegally moving them to another country (have they done so recently), or is that par for the course in the international antiquities trade these days?

So how is the US to police illicit exports coming into the US market if the dealers associations are all holding out for a system which tolerates 'laundering' of goods like this?

It seems to me that to be effective, the US CCPIA is due for a rewrite to take into account the current situation on the international antiquities market which is a totally different one than that of 1983 which it faced.

UPDATE 11.11.11: the ink had barely dried on the virtual page before dealer Dave Welsh chipped in with his usual feeble-minded and violently-worded missing-the-point nonsense:
"Barford savages briefs supporting ACCG test case". If Mr Welsh thinks my discussion of these briefs qualifies for the term "savage" then he obviously has led a sheltered life. It is obviously a waste of time discussing his text here, the reader can make up their own minds to what degree the opinions about "the locals", Gunga-Din and White Supremacy etc etc attributed to me are actually evidenced in anything I have written here or elsewhere, and likewise whether anything Welsh writes ostensibly in "reply" bears any relation whatsoever to my discussion of the three briefs and what they represent. Once again, the reader can decide whether what I say is a "rabid blast of violently anticollecting sentiment" or whether instead it raises legitimate concerns about what no-questions-asked traders in freshly "surfaced" archaeological material are up to.

We might ask whether Mr Welsh's Classical Coins obtains his Late Roman Bronze "specials" through suppliers utilising the Moronov or Sleazyov business model - or maybe some other? Or would that be too "savage" a question to ask a US coin dealing lobbyist to give an honest answer to?


Anonymous said...

Make it all for Sa(y)le(s), yes?

Thank you, Paul, for sharing with us. Like the Catholic church covering up pedophiles to protect the hierarchy, Sayles, Welsh and Tompa seem to want to cover up for those who for many years trade and plan to continue in illicitly excavated materials within their hierarchy to protect their system, then officially sanctioned by the US government. To witness how these three old guys officially try to sanction illicit trade in antiquities, and try to silence everything and everyone standing up for the laws to protect our world from more looting holes in the ground, to provoke, is disgusting. I suggest the governments of China, Cyprus and Bulgaria should sue these three old men if no one in the US does, personally for trading in illicitly excavated materials.

All in all, this is not different from the ongoing Penn State scandal where some dirty old man could molest kids in a period of 15 years, being covered up by Penn State to protect its brand. Abusing kids is as illegal as trading in illicitly excavated materials. When do you understand this, Tompa, Sayles and co., just when? We need more people, bloggers, following your lead, Paul, and speaking up against such wild-west behaviour. Sayles, Tomparoli, Welsh: how can you look in the mirror everyday, knowing YOU are responsible when a guard of a museum with coins or a police man in another country is beaten nearly to death because people with profite interests like you want coins and objects? You are such a SHAME for the US!

Anonymous said...

Welsh: I looked at your website. Where are these "specials" from???
Where do you have your coins from and do you keep the export and import licenses?

Your attacks against this blog are disgusting as is your personality! Shame on you!

Paul Barford said...

If you'd looked at the Classical Coins website before he changed the description [soon after I asked the question the first time], you'd know where they came from. Its in the earlier posts of this blog. So, the Moronovs or the Sleazyovs - or some other way?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Welsh? Hello? There are honest people out here with good intentions. We have questions: do you work with the Moronovs or Sleazyovs (what names, wow!)? Are you against the illicit trade in antiquities and are you willing to support your own country in its mission to stop the trade in stolen property? From whom in the Balkans and the other suurounding modern countries do you get your coins from? Did you ever fantasize about ending one day in jail since you obviously violated and wish to continue to violate US laws? Mr. Welsh? Hello?

kyri said...

avatar,the parallels with paedophiles,ect,is way off the mark and a parent myself i dont see how you can compare antiquities dealers/collectors with paedophiles.we all love a good discussion and im all for hearing all sides but the persistent use of these analogies between peadophillia and antiquities dealers/collectors dosent help your arguments or may dissagree with these people but they are not criminals but upstanding members of their communities who happen to believe passionately in what they do,as paul dose, only on the opposite side of the spectrum.dave welsh recognises as much when he says that paul barford is "sincere in his beliefs",they know that paul is sincere and passionate about his beliefs but i dont hear them using such analogies.this horrible word keeps popping up,there is no room for it in this debate and for neutrals,who agree with both sides on certain issues and dissagree on others, it makes the whole debate look a bit pathetic.

Paul Barford said...

Kyri, who is objecting to using kiddie porn as an analogy for could-not-care-less antiquity collecting, says of the dealers’ lobbyists:
”I dont hear them using such analogies
Oh they do. Perhaps you are not looking in the right places. Take a look at Welsh’s blog, like at the place where yesterday he accused me yesterday of being a White Supremacist… (illegal in my country) etc.

Kyri, I am not "debating” here. As I have stressed many times, I am not writing FOR collectors and dealers, I am writing about them.

I am expressing my disapproval and from where I stand I think the paedophiles analogy (precisely because it is so shocking) is a perfectly good one.

- Those that do engage in it do so despite the existence of laws and international agreements against the activity, laws which are intended to protect something important which other people care about (kiddie porn laws are intended to protect kids from being victimised by pornographers, antiquity preservation laws are intended to protect sites becoming victim to looting).

- Paedophiles swap information and resources in secret places on the web (like closed off forums like Moneta and AncientArtifacts).

- If you have ever stumbled upon some of their material (NAMBLA for example) you will see that, like antiquity collectors and dealers, they use all kinds of “justification” for what they do – often stretching logic as much as the coineys do. If you take a look, the arguments used are very similar in structure to those used by coineys, so drawing the parallel might make some reading the coiney arguments aware of the rhetorical tricks used when seen in the wider context of a parallel discussion on another topic - with all that leads to.

- NAMBLA has been doing lobbying to get restrictions on the activity loosened (like ACCG and the CCPIA).

- Paedophiles (like could-not-care-less collectors of freshly-surfaced dugups) do what they do to satisfy a lust, a greedy lust blind to other concerns; though they call it something else.

- In both, it is not enough to introduce restrictions merely at the level of “production” of the commodity, it’s the users who are just as guilty for the financing of the activity by providing a capacious and expanding no-questions-asked market. Fighting kiddie porn and the no-questions-asked market in antiquities must involve taking action against those who consume it as well as produce it. That’s the way to stifle the damaging market in both. Isn't it?

[There are other parallels, too, but that's enough].

Paul Barford said...


"Cultural property internationalists" like Sayles and Welsh claim that collecting antiquities spreads "tolerance", intercultural "understanding" and "cosmopolitan" attitudes, a way of bringing people together (that's what they say). I would not have thought that a collector who through the accumulation of relics of the Classical past tries to absorb classical culture would consider “paedophilia” a “horrible word”, man-boy intimate relations at least were after all an established feature of the ancient Greek social system, how can one “understand’ a vanished culture while merely shutting one’s eyes to and rejecting the aspects that today revolt us?

And anyway, who do you think are the guys coming onto my blog to gawp at a classical statue’s minute (indeed eroded) genitals? I’d like to know who bought that statue and what else that particular collector has in their home. It might even be in the public interest just to make sure, but can you get the auction house to reveal to whom they sold that items which some obviously consider to be marble porn?

You may be "revolted" by mny mentioning kiddie porn here. I am revolted, utterly revolted by the idea that people are blindly financing the ripping apart of the world's archaeological record to satisfy their own lusts to emulate the fat-cat collectors of the past and buying freshly-surfaced artefacts no-questions-asked and failing to draw the obvious conclusion about what effects this is having on the historic environment. That I find repulsive, and reserve the right to be able to use whatever
terms and phrases I choose to express that revulsion. If I persuade readers is Washinton and Westminster (and landowners in Warrington, Worcester and the Wirral) to adopt similar attitudes to irresponsible artefact hunters, dealers and collectors, then my words will have served their purpose. Those who can't accept that don't have to read my blog, they can go and look at the Portable Antiquities Scheme blog instead. There are no harsh words there.

kyri said...

paul,i understand why you do it but i still think its not necessary,as you get your point across well enough without having to resort to these shock tactics. we will have to agree to differ on this one.
of course it is your blog and you can write what you like,at least hear i know my comments will be published,unlike certain other forums where i am moderated beyond belief and cant even defend myself when called a "fool" by a coin dealer just because i accused a metal detector of bad practice.

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