Sunday 20 April 2014

Should Customs be 'More Vigilant'?

My comment on Elginism's "Brit fined for attempting to auction looted Egyptian artefacts" (April 16, 2014) about the Kingsbury case. He suggested: "The fact also needs to be noted that the items were smuggled from Egypt in a suitcase on a flight – more needs to be done by countries to protect the egress of looted artefacts through their borders, helping to stop the trade by making it much more difficult for international buyers". I am not convinced that this is the main way to go.
Hi, I am not sure that having Egyptian, Spanish, Italian etc etc customs opening everybody’s carefully packed luggage to see if they’ve not slipped an ancient coin in their folded socks on the way home is really the way we want to see this go. This is the collectors’ argument (“”They” should take more care of their stuff, if they did, we would not take it”). We’d all suffer because of the smugglers that way.
Surely (in addition, obviously, to random checks of travellers by customs) there should be more control on artefacts suddenly “surfacing” from nowhere at all. So in the Kingsbury story involving a dead uncle, what documentary proof was offered? Documents proving the uncle existed, had served in Egypt, had brought stuff back legally and the will where Mr K is bequeathed them? Or did the seller just turn up, tell the story about this “uncle” and that was enough for the auction house to accept these items? If Christies are taking the high ground over their due diligence, then the least they can do is tell us – and future potential clients – just how exactly they verified that collecting history.

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