Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Lewis Defence Lawyers Urge Dismissal of Case Against Client in US v. Khouli et al.

Rick St Hilaire has an interesting text about the court case ensuing from the New York antiquities bust ('Lewis Defense Lawyers File Motion to Dismiss in US v. Khouli et al.'). An indictment is not a finding of guilt and a criminal defendant is presumed innocent unless the prosecution can prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. Basically Lewis' lawyers are arguing that collectors have no obligation to ensure that "freshly surfaced" artefacts they are purchasing are not illegally obtained. Let us see if that is a position upheld by a New York court of law, but even so, is that not really precisely what collectors buying precisely this category of material should, in fact, be doing? Also let us note that the lawyers say that Lewis as part of his "due diligence" before purchase was informed by the dealer that the objects came from a 1960s collection in Israel - so one might ask whether to offset the accusations that he was collecting smuggled items he has provided his lawyers with Israeli export permits for those antiquities he believes were exported from Israel.
Moreover, defense counsel contends that prosecutors cannot prove that the items in questions were stolen. They highlight that there has been no assertion by Egypt that the items are in fact stolen. And if the prosecution argues that the incomplete provenance of the artifacts should have informed Lewis that the objects may have been stolen, defense lawyers cite journal articles to show that lack of provenance is common in the antiquities market and does not demonstrate that a cultural object is in fact stolen.
Well, motoring magazines rarely say where the model they are illustrating was bought, that does not mean that the BMW in Cletus Thugwit's garage for which he has absolutely no paperwork is not stolen.

Lewis’ lawyers conclude that the lack of evidence cannot sustain a conviction, warranting a dismissal of the government's criminal case. It is worth noting that the "no provenance does not mean illegal" argument is the same one used by the coineys - but despite that Salem Alshdaifat (Holyland Numismatics) and Morris Khouli were suspended from the ACCG before they'd even set foot in a courtroom.

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