Sunday, 22 March 2015

Will Antiquities Smugglers be Thanking the IAPN and PNG?

J. Gelibert: 'Le contrebandier de la
Vallée d'Aure' (wikipedia)
The IAPN and PNG lobbyist is thanking collectors who as he put it "again asked CPAC to help preserve their ability to collect "coins of Italian types"  from bureaucratic overreach" (sic). If the ploy succeeds who will be thanking Mr Tompa for his work in ensuring antiquity smugglers have a carte blanche to import coins into the US with nobody at the border checking that they've not been illegally exported? The IAPN and PNG? Collectors? Collectors who will be faced with a market where illegally exported material is in free circulation thanks to IAPN and PNG opposition to the implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property? 

 After all, there is nothing against that in the IAPN Code of Ethics ("Diese Seite wird derzeit überarbeitet, schauen Sie doch später nocheinmal vorbei.")  It used to read: "To guarantee that good title accompanies all items sold, and never knowingly to deal in any numismatic item that has been illegally removed from an official excavation site or stolen from a public or private collection". Nothing there at all about smuggled artefacts. Once it is through the US borders a buyer in the US can claim 'good title' (as per the so-called Code of ethics here) of a coin smuggled out of any source country. And an IAPN dealer buying from a middleman smuggled coins no-questions-asked is conveniently not in any way ("never knowingly") in breach of the actual wording of their code of ethics. 

It is the same with the PNG Code of Ethics . There is nothing here specifically about smuggled artefacts either. The nearest you get is that "To refrain from knowingly [that word again] dealing in stolen numismatic items.

To what extent did the PNG ("Knowledge Integrity and responsibility" [sic] and the IAPN in financing Peter Tompa's lobbying on their behalf, intend to attempt to re-open the US market to coins smuggled from Europe? What other interpretation can there be for their opposing the extension of the MOU implementing in the USA the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property? Just what lies behind their continued support of the particular manner in which Mr Tompa, "Cultural Property Observer" conducts his lobbying on behalf of all IAPN and PNG members and the collectors they serve? Members, ask them how much this cost you. How much did Peter Tompa's legal firm receive to carry out this lobbying cost IAPN and PNG members over the past year and what do they have to show for it apart from a comment to the CPAC full of irrelevant padding, misleadingly-represented 'facts' and contentious statements?

Let us be clear about this. The phrasing of the texts constituting the majority of the opposition to the extension of a protective cultural heritage MOU between the USA and a major European cultural centre are quite clearly the result of the work behind the scenes of one man. Tompa is no doubt proud of himself for what he has done. The majority of the cut-and-pasted mass mailings of the coiney attempted highjack of the public discussion come from a template he supplied (and himself used) in their comments. Most of the anti-MOU contributions make reference to his cynical  sky-is-falling manipulation counting on collectors' naivity and stupidity that the extended MOU will affect all Roman Imperial coins

While Peter Tompa is single-handedly responsible for the damaging effect this creates of the commitment of US collectors to tackle the illicit antiquities trade, behind Peter Tompa stand the IAPN and PNG. The IAPN was founded in Geneva and aims to promote 'a healthy and prosperous numismatic trade' for its members, while the PNG is based (like ACCG's Dave Welsh) in Temecula CA. It says its aim is "to make the hobby safe for collectors and investors by maintaining strict standards of excellence and ethics for their member dealers". The activities of Mr Tompa which they support might be thought to cast severe doubt on their sincerity about that. A market penetratable by illicitly exported material may be "safe" (in a 'they can't touch you for it' way) but can in no way be said to be ethical or licit. If their lobbyist succeeds in his efforts to get the extension of the Italy MOU refused on their behalf, the US coin market will be in danger of being a major outlet for Europe's antiquity smugglers. 

Shame on you IAPN and all the "professional" numismatists in it.

Shame on you PNG and all the "professional" numismatists in it.

Shame on you collectors if you supported either of these organizations in their efforts to get the MOU withdrawn or reduced in scope so you can buy smuggled coins with impunity. 

Shame on the lot of you who say you care about 'preservation of the past' but throw a stumbling block under the feet of those that want to curb culture crime. Hypocrites. 

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