Saturday 5 May 2012

Collector Charged in Argentinian Stolen Antiquity Case

An artefact case in Argentina is developing into a minor political scandal.  Mateo Goretti is an Italian-Argentine political scientist who owns one of the most important collections of pre-Columbian antiquities ("art") art in Argentina and also an advisor to Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri.

A building in the Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires was one of those involved in four simultaneous raids in Capital Federal and San Isidro led by Interpol on 18 April.  As a result of this, it was reportedly discovered that  58 artefacts in Goretti's collection, dating from 500 to 1000AD (and with a total value estimated at around US$ 700,000) were among those that had been stolen from  Museo Ambato, located at the Edén hotel in La Falda (Río Ceballos), Córdoba, in 2008; around the same time that Goretti came to office. The pieces found at the collector’s home reportedly represent 10 percent of the 700 exhibits stolen.

Goretti, maintains that "he had bought the pieces in good faith". Goretti's lawyer Marcos Juarez, said weeks ago that the collector "did not know the illicit origin of the pieces". Córdoba deputy federal judge Liliana Navarro however countered that:
Goretti “could not have been unaware” of the origin of the relics, as he was a “private collector and a connoisseur of pre-Colombian art, and has written books on the subject”. “We are talking about theft to public property,” said judge Navarro, as reported by local publication Los Andes. “Therefore, they cannot be dealt or sold privately; these pieces were a part of a museum and should be available to the people.”

Already by then, the city government was striving to distance itself from the scandal and Goretti himself. Buenos Aires City Cabinet Chief Horacio Rodríguez Larreta stressed his belief that Goretti had indeed bought the items in “good faith,” and decried the politicization of the case. Meanwhile several politicians were calling for Goretti to stand down during the investigation.

Until recently the State Prosecutor Enrique Senestrari had not yet decided to press charges. Matters however came to a head a few hours ago when it was decided the collector would indeed be charged for his role in the "theft of antiquities", violating a section of the Act on the Protection of Cultural Heritage.

Video: "Museo Ambato" posted on You Tube by Cadena 3 Argentina

Megan Cassidy, 'Judge Rules Goretti Was Aware of Stolen Artifacts
CBA24n, 'Imputaron a Mateo Goretti por el robo de piezas arqueológicas', CBA24n 3rd May 2012

Francisco Centeno, 'Imputan a asesor de Macri por tenencia de piezas arqueológicas',  Cadena 3 Argentina May 5, 2012

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