Tuesday 31 July 2012

Americans Just Love Smuggled Antiquities

In criticising the Texas CBP authorities for their lapse stopping two Egyptian sarcophagi being imported into the US disguised as "sculptures" under non-existent legal authority (Egyptian Coffins Successfully Detected and Recovered by Customs in Texas - Question of Proper Seizure Authority Remains), Rick St Hilaire draws attention to a recent similar case :
Last year, CBP authorities in Chicago misapplied the law in a case where officers seized a Nayarit figurine from Mexico.  The seizure was reportedly made on the basis of a violation of the CPIA because it was presumed that the United States and Mexico had a bilateral agreement in force under the CPIA.  But the U.S. and Mexico did not (and still do not) have such an agreement in place.

So basically - since there are so few MOUs - its perfectly legal to openly import into US and put on the US antiquities market ancient artefacts smuggled out most of the following 206 countries:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states with the exception of the fourteen on this list, when to keep the US antiquities market supplied, you have to mislabel the package and do some dodgy documentation with a very good chance you will not get caught out. It is believed that certain antiquity importers have been doing it for years. To judge from the utter paucity of mentions in sales offers of dealer after dealer in the US of the existence documentation of legal export from the 'source countries' (let alone licit origins) of dugup antiquities, it seems a fair assumption that the majority of artefacts on the US market have arrived there without once having been through the appropriate export procedures on their way there

When are responsible collectors in the US going to demand the market cleans itself up, and lawmakers make laws which protect the US consumer from being faced with a market which is in fact full of tainted goods? Are there any responsible collectors in the US who want this? If so, where are their voices?


Rick St. Hilaire said...

There is other legal authority that would authorize U.S. seizure of Egyptian artifacts. See http://culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com/2011/02/reclaiming-trafficked-egyptian-cultural.html. These same legal theories could apply in situations where artifacts from another nation without an MoU with the U.S. could have the cultural property seized.

Paul Barford said...

Yes, I know - including from some of your posts on the imaginative use of some of them in the other cases.

The point is that I find it totally galling that the more you look into it, the clearer it becomes that the US only pays lip-service to a Convention which it claims to be "implementing", but is not - and the reason for that is the piece of legislation that was specifically drafted to PREVENT that.

Whether America will actually address this problem and stop the charade is anyone's guess.

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