Tuesday, 11 July 2017

More Laundering by Misdescription - "Clay Objects"

Customs officials have foiled an attempt by a dealer to bring in priceless ancient Indian artefacts from Switzerland by wrongly declaring them as 'items made of clay, brass and stone', when they were in fact antiquities ranging in date from post-Maurya (200 BC) to the 5th century AD, according to the Archaeological Survey of India ('Rs 10 crore worth artefacts smuggled in as clay objects?' TNN Sep 20, 2014):
The 19 items collectively worth around Rs 10 crore were smuggled out of the country and imported back, officials said in an affidavit to the Kerala high court. The court is hearing a petition filed by Natesan Antiqarts seeking directions to customs department for release of the goods. Natesan Antiqarts had declared the value of the items at Rs 5 lakh. The import appears to be a method to camouflage and legalise the acquisition of articles which cannot be otherwise accounted for before the authorities,'' the affidavit said. Natesan Antiqarts, an established dealer in handicrafts and antiques with branches in Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore, Mumbai and London, has accused customs officials of purposefully delaying the clearance of goods. They have also contended that the consignment need only be cleared by the customs authority of the country from where imports were made. The imports were made in January this year. They were declared by Natesan Antiqarts as articles of clay, stone and brass and not as antiques
The items seized were illegally exported out of India because the export of such items is not  permitted, and the importer is liable for action for receiving stolen property, officials said.
If the declarations of the items were made correctly, Switzerland Customs authority would not have permitted the import as such illicit import is not allowed as per a 2003 Swiss law named Cultural Property Transfer Act, the customs department said.
The lack of transparency in the antiquities trade and near-general acceptance of laundering by misdescription as described, for example, by US dealers Ken Dorney and Dave Welsh (Classical coins) can create conditions for the wholesale passage of stolen, looted and smuggled portable antiquities onto the international market. This needs to STOP, responsible dealers should take the lead to help stamp this practice out.

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