Monday 13 January 2014

Swiss Authorities Reportedly Hold Antiquities Dealer

Haaretz is reporting that the director of an English art dealership of Russian/Israeli origin is currently having a few problems. Reportedly he has been held in Switzerland for the last four months because he is wanted for questioning in Russia (who apparently is now trying to extradite him) about his alleged involvement in a gang that smuggled antiquities out of Russia and sold them overseas. His firm specialises in antiquities from Eurasia and especially Khazar antiquities from southern Russia. It is alleged that the man, named as Menashe Michael Goldelman, 41, was smuggling cultural artefacts obtained from illegal excavations out of the source country "by hiding them in concealed spaces under the doors of his Mercedes". Russian antiquities law go back to the end of the nineteenth century. The Early Medieval Khazars on the lower and middle Don are a group that attracts a lot of interest, due to them converting to Judaism. Khazar artefacts therefore are highly sought after collectables in certain circles. Haaretz goes on to report: 
Russia has been seeking to question Goldelman ever since he was fingered by another member of the smuggling ring, who was convicted in a plea bargain and sentenced to four years in jail. Sources involved in the case said that England, where Goldelman now lives, has refused to extradite him. But when he visited Switzerland four months ago, he was arrested and is being held until a Swiss court rules on Russia’s extradition request.
Goldelman has also been in the news recently over a libel suit which he is conducting in Israel against Dan Shapira, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at Bar-Ilan University. Certainly both cases are worth watching.

Nir Hasson, 'Interpol, the Russian mob and one scholar to rule them all', Haaretz Aug. 20, 2010).

Nir Hasson, 'Swiss jail Israeli antiquities dealer over Russian smuggling charges', Haaretz, Jan. 13, 2014

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