Monday 15 April 2013

Another US 'Humanitarian worker' Arrested for Smuggling dugup antiquities

There have been several instances of Americans and others smuggling coins and antiquities out of Macedonia in the press in recent months (see for example the post here: "Two Americans Caught Smuggling Macedonian Antiquities").

It is now being reported by The Macedonian International News Agency  that another US "humanitarian worker" has been arrested at a Macedonian-Bulgarian border crossing for attempting to smuggle dugup artefacts out of Macedonia. There are more details on the Macedonian Customs agency's website ('Prevented,new attempt for exportation of cultural heritage', 13th April 2013 -which ironically bears the logo of USAid).

The American  citizen (identified in news reports only as "J.B.H", a resident of Minnesota who had temporary residence in Bulgaria) had been working in Shtip and Probistip in Macedonia and arrived at the border crossing of Delcevo on 12th April in a Volkswagen Caravelle van with Bulgarian number plates. He said he had nothing to declare but when they were searching the van, customs officials noted that the man became increasingly agitated and seemed in a hurry to depart from Macedonia. They then carried out a personal search and found 'on' (in?) him 48 ancient coins ranging in size and age from 2nd century b.c. up to 17th century.
The personal search led to detection of 38 numismatic old coins with different inscriptions, dimensions and marks, found in the right pocket of the suspect’s tracksuit, wrapped in ordinary white paper, other 8 coins with different dimensions and inscriptions found in the front left pocket of the suspect’s jeans and other 2 other coins in the belongings (left and right pocket of passenger bag, wrapped in plastic zipper storage bags). [...] The suspect had temporary residence in Sofia-Bulgaria and arrived in Macedonia two days before. After he arrived, he met his friend, a Macedonian living in Shtip and dealing in sale of coins. The two persons agreed to meet the next day on the road Shtip-Radovish, near the “Makpetrol” petrol station, where his friend gave him the coins. Later, the suspect drove to the border between Macedonia and Bulgaria, with intention to take the coins out of the country.
The man was charged by authorities there with "exporting national and cultural treasures protected by the state". The suspect and evidence were "handed to an examining judge who after the investigation procedure imposed a 30-days custody measure for the suspect".As Nathan Elkins notes: 
The photograph of the coins, which are covered in earth, and the chronological breadth of the collection suggest they were found at multiple archaeological sites and from mixed assemblages.  Such groups of coins are the fruits of looting and are regularly exported from Balkan in astonishing quantities to supply European and North American demand.
If these coins had come onto the US market, either on the US man's return to Minnesota or in the splitting of his collection after his death, what mechanism in the current no-questions-asked market would allow a buyer to avoid these illicitly-obtained and smuggled coins? None.

So far there has been no Facebook page created to "Pray for the release of JBH". He's probably not as photogenic as the US nurse, Candi Dunlap.


Macedonian Information Agency, 'US citizen caught smuggling Macedonian antiquities',  Saturday April 13th. - MIA 

Macedonian International News Agency, "Another US "Humanitarian" caught smuggling artefacts"   Sunday, 14 April 2013

Macedonian Customs agency's website, 'Prevented,new attempt for exportation of cultural heritage', 13th April 2013

See also Nathan Elkins: "Minnesotan Charged with Attempted Smuggling of Ancient Coins out of Macedonia".

Map: Macedonia and its border cossings 


Cultural Property Observer said...

Before anyone casts any stones, I'd like to know it such coins are still openly available for sale in Macedonia (I've heard such items are) and whether there are any postings for foreigners about Macedonian export laws. I'd note that UNESCO apparently thinks this is a problem as they are pushing an advertising campaign to warn tourists about illegal exports.

Paul Barford said...

I do not think looters dig them up not to sell them, it is quite obvious that profiting from their sale is the prime motive for engaging in this illegal activity.

Since they come from illegal activity, there would be problems for anyone trying to "openly" sell or buy them, but obviously Mr GBH did not have too much trouble finding the criminals (or maybe they found him).

But he is not being accused of "buying" coins, but trying to remove them across an international border, two entirely different things. Having marijuana for personal use in some states is one thing, selling or transporting it is another.

I really do not know why a lawyer would get the two confused.

I would say that anyone going into a foreign country really needs to familiarise themselves of the laws affecting what they will be doing there, including driving a car (the highway code in fact differs from European country to European country), having sex with teenage girls or boys, taking recreational drugs, drinking alcohol in public, dress and undress in public, carrying of firearms and so on.

Do Macedonians coming to the USA on holiday get a handbook of every conceivable US law that may affect them during their stay? Why not?

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