Tuesday 7 February 2012

"The USA, The Only Country That Matters"? (Part 1)

Dugup coin collector Jorg Lueke from Minnesota presumes to tell me about the legislation concerning the international antiquity trade. He takes one of my comments about export licences out of context (I was discussing those items on US 'designated lists' appended to CCPIA bilateral cultural property agreements), on that basis accusing me of having what he calls "a mental block". Sadly closer examination of the wider context of both remarks reveals that the more serious blockage is in the other head. He writes:
My point was that if import restrictions were applied to all coins (and they would have to be to actually reduce looting) then all coins could be examined by customs. I don't know why this is such a hard point for Mr. Barford to understand.
What about if US Customs were instead there to reduce smuggling, would that make it easier for the coiney to understand?

Most countries of course have customs officers at international border crossing places to stop people unlawfully taking certain items across the border. What people do with spades well away from these international borders they are supervising falls into the remit of a totally different branch of the law enforcement authorities. This seems to be a particular US aberration, to consider that a Convention called the
'Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property' should have had "but most of all about looting" somewhere in the title. It does not, and the Convention is NOT about stopping looting (but is about dealing with theft). So how to stop Mr Antiquitas Thugwit smuggling antiquities and his brother Slimeas Thugwit smuggling drugs and kiddie porn? Basically, that means Customs inspecting as many packages passing through customs as possible for concealed antiquities, drugs and kiddie porn (not necessarily in these hi-tech days only be means of opening them).

That is of course what they actually do. In New York a bunch of guys are as I write facing trial (court case coming up soon) because US Customs reportedly found undeclared or improperly declared antiquities in packages being sent into the US. Mr Lueke might like to reflect on the fact that the US has NO MOU either with Egypt, or Dubai (the alleged shipping point) and yet US Customs not only stopped the shipment and examined it, but seized some of the artefacts, then raided a number of premises and on the basis of the discoveries are placing both dealers and a collector who bought the stuff in front of a court.

[I would like Mr Lueke and anyone who thinks like him to read that last paragraph again and reflect deeply on what it means to their beliefs that if they stay away from the coins mentioned in a few MOUs, they are operating within US law even when being involved in the movement of unlawfully exported items across international borders].

Lueke really is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Look at what he then wrote:
In response to my comment, “The biggest problem is that all the existing low value coins from source countries don't have export certificates since it hasn't been necessary and is an extra cost.” The response comes, “Most certainly such certificates are necessary from most of the source countries concerned. Even the UK. Who told Lueke that they were not? The ACCG legal team?” Here Mr. Barford seems to misunderstand US Customs law. For importing coins into the US export certificates from source countries are only required when there is an MOU in place.
This seems to betray the conviction that the only country in the whole world that matters is the USA. Here I am talking about lawful, licit EXPORT from a source country, but that is like water off a duck's back for the US collector, he says he "don' need any of that stuff t' bring it inta ma country!". Chalk and cheese.

I'll expand on that some more in the post below.

Vignette: It seems some dugup US coin collectors have an extremely limited world-view which leads them to some false conclusions...

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