Showing posts with label looted antiquities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label looted antiquities. Show all posts

February 10, 2017

Repatriation: Stolen Greek sarcophagus fragment heading home

Image Credits: ARCA
Sarcophagus fragment depicting battle between Greeks and Trojans
Just one month after an illicit sarcophagus fragment was reported to Matthew Bogdanos, Assistant District Attorney for New York in Manhattan, the object is heading back to its rightful home in Greece.  

Pictured in the four photographs above, the fragment of this sarcophagus was laundered through the licit art market, making its way to New York via Italian antiquities dealer Gianfranco Becchina and ultimately to the gallery windows of Royal-Athena Galleries, a New York City-based gallery operated by Jerome Eisenberg which specialises in ancient Greek, Etruscan, Roman and Egyptian art.

Details on the supporting documentation which reflects the object's looting and laundering gathered together and presented to authorities by Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis can be found in an earlier ARCA blog post here

Gianfranco Becchina is a name well known to those who follow the trade of illicit antiquities.  His role in the trafficking of looted objects first drew Italian prosecutors interest following the death of Pasquale Camera, a former captain of the Guardia di Finanza turned middle-man trafficker, who lost control of his car on Italy’s Autostrada del Sole, Italy's north-south motorway, as he approached the exit for Cassino, a small town an hour and a half south of Rome.  Smashing into a guardrail and flipping his Renault on its roof, Camera’s automobile accident not only ended his life but set into motion a chain reaction that resulted in the identification of one of the world's most well known antiquities trafficking networks. one responsible for the systematic spoliation of the artistic heritage of Southern Italy and Greece. 

The Greek sarcophagus fragment was handed over by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and Assistant District Attorney to Dr. Constantine Koutras, the Consul General of Greece in a formal ceremony in New York today.

During the event District Attorney Vance stated:

“Trafficked antiquities often acquire a veneer of legitimacy after the passage of time or changes in ownership.....Galleries, auction houses, and art collectors, however, should be on alert that my office and our partners in law enforcement are closely following the listing and sale of items of suspicious or dubious provenance. As looting becomes more common, collectors must exercise greater scrutiny when it comes to evaluating whether an item may have been unlawfully acquired. To do otherwise is to implicitly endorse an unacceptable practice through willful ignorance. I thank our partners for their commitment to ending the trade of stolen antiquities, and today, I am gratified to return another treasured artifact to its rightful owner, the Hellenic Republic and people of Greece.”

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance told reporters at the repatriation ceremony that as the owner of the gallery, unnamed during the press conference, had forfeited the sarcophagus voluntarily when presented with the evidence of its provenance, and nobody from the gallery will face prosecution.

This is not the first time that Royal Athena Galleries has been made to forfeit looted antiquities as can be noted here, here, and here.

ARCA would like to extend its heartfelt appreciation to Dr. Tsirogiannis.  His identification of this fragment made its repatriation possible.  

January 14, 2017

Auction Alert and Antiquities Seizure: Royal-Athena Galleries, New York

On January 8, 2017 forensic archaeologist Christos Tsirogiannis alerted Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos in Manhattan and ARCA that he had identified another illicit antiquity, apparently being laundered via the US art market.  The object in question had been listed for sale via Royal-Athena Galleries, a New York City-based gallery which is operated by Jerome Eisenberg

Screen Capture - Royal-Athena Galleries 1
According to Tsirogiannis the object identified was a 64.8 x 90.8 cm. sarcophagus fragment which matches four polaroid images and three handwritten notes found in the Becchina archive. 

This accumulation of records was seized by Swiss and Italian authorities in 2002 during raids conducted on Gianfranco Becchina’s gallery, Palladion Antique Kunst, as well as two storage facilities inside the Basel Freeport, and another elsewhere in Switzerland.  The Becchina Archive consists of some 140 binders which contain more than 13,000 documents related to the antiquities dealer's business.  

These records include shipping manifests, dealer notes, invoices, pricing documents, and thousands of photographic images.  Many of the images are not slick art gallery salesroom photos, but rather, are point and shoot polaroids taken by looters and middlemen which depict recently looted antiquities, some of which still bear soil and salt encrustations. 

In 2011 Becchina was convicted in Italy for his role in the illegal antiquities trade and while he later appealed this conviction, looted antiquities traced to his trafficking network, like this sarcophagus fragment, continue to surface in private collections, museums and some of the world's most well know auction firms specializing in ancient art.  

In releasing his identifications to ARCA Tsirogiannis said:

"Regarding the sarcophagus fragment, each of the four Polaroid images depicting the fragment is included in a different file of the Becchina archive:

I discovered the first image (attachment no. 1) in a file that Becchina created to archive the antiquities he was receiving from a Greek trafficker termed in the archive ‘ZE’ or ‘ZENE’ (the beginning of his surname) or ‘Giorgio’ (Giorgos, his first name in Greek). This trafficker, now deceased, was well-known to the Greek police art squad.

attachment no. 1

In a separate handwritten note (attachment no. 2), Becchina records that he received the antiquity (‘1 Frto. [meaning ‘Fragment’] di sarcofago’) for 60.000 Swiss Francs on 25 May 1988. 

attachment no. 2
This antiquity is recorded as the 9th object included in the 34th group of antiquities that ‘Zene’ sent to Becchina (see attachment no. 3).

attachment no. 3
Another note (attachment no. 4), a handwritten page, lists a group of antiquities that Becchina bought from ‘Zene’, from November 1986 until October 1988, for more than $250,000, including the sarcophagus’ fragment (no. 9).

attachment no. 4
The fifth attachment is a photocopy of a Polaroid image, depicting the same antiquity; this image was attached to a blank A4 page, together with other Polaroid images depicting other antiquities that ‘Zene’ smuggled from Greece to Becchina, under the title ‘in PF’, meaning that all these antiquities were stored at the time at the P[ort] [F]ranc (the Free Port) of Basel. 

attachment no. 5
In Becchina’s list of antiquities stored in his warehouses in the Free Port of Basel, the sarcophagus fragment was number 21 (see sixth attachment, another Polaroid image).

attachment no. 6
Finally, I am sending you another handwritten note (attachment no. 7), in which Becchina is asking one of the restorers he was using, Andre Lorenceau, to clean (‘reinigen’) the fragment and to add a base (‘sockeln’), as a support (by drilling into the antiquity). I discovered this note in the Becchina file dedicated to his cooperation with the restorer Andre Lorenceau."

attachment no. 7
According to the Royal-Athena Galleries website, the sarcophagus fragment has been attributed by Dr. Guntram Koch, an academic with an expertise in Roman sarcophagoi. 

Screen Capture - Royal-Athena Galleries 2

In addition to notifying the New York authorities, Tsirogiannis informed INTERPOL and the Greek police art squad. 

The object in question was seized by US authorities at approximately January 14 2:00 pm EST.

Nearly ten years ago in November 2007 Eisenberg returned eight antiquities stolen from museums and archaeological sites worth US$ 510,000 to Italy. Given the fact that it often takes sound identifications, such as those conducted by researchers such as Tsirogiannis, restitutions by art market dealers should not be misconstrued as spontaneous. In most cases pieces are relinquished merely to avoid lengthy litigation or in order for suspect dealers to remove themselves from the negative publicity caused by being subject to criminal charges.

By: Lynda Albertson





December 26, 2016

Some analysis of the Criminal Complaint against New York art dealer Nancy Wiener


In ARCA's December 25th blog post ARCA published the criminal complaint filed in Manhattan Criminal Court, signed by Special Agent Brenton Easter of the Department of Homeland Security, which indicated the charges presented against New York art dealer Nancy Wiener through her gallery Nancy Wiener Gallery.

Today we have thought to publish the sentencing guidelines should this defendant be convicted of the charges as well as a bit of distilled information about the individuals mentioned in the body of  the New York criminal complaint. 

In New York State, Criminal Conspiracy is punishable by law when one acts, agrees or performs with intent to commit a crime. Depending on the crime committed, a conspiracy charge could be prosecuted either as a NY State crime or as a United States Federal crime.  In this case a criminal complaint has been brought against Nancy Wiener for:

Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in First Degree – NY Panel Law 165.54

A person is found guilty of criminal possession of stolen property in the first degree when he knowingly possesses stolen property, with intent to benefit himself or a person other than an owner thereof or to impede the recovery by an owner, and when the value of the value of the stolen property exceeds $1,000,000. 

The pending case against New York art dealer Nancy Wiener the New York Penal Law 165.54  would be classified as a “B” non violent felony.  As a potential first time offender Wiener faces a minimum of one to three years in prison and a maximum of eight and one third to twenty five years. Probation and community service are not options.

Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in Second Degree – NY Penal Law 165.52

A person is found guilty of criminal possession of stolen property in the first degree when he knowingly possesses stolen property, with intent to benefit himself or a person other than an owner thereof or to impede the recovery by an owner, and when the value of the value of the stolen property exceeds $50,000.

The pending case against New York art dealer Nancy Wiener the New York Penal Law 165.52 would be classified as a “C” non violent felony. As a potential first time offender Wiener faces no minimum sentence but faces as much as five to fifteen years in prison. Alternate sentences include probation, probation coupled with jail, community service, fines and a conditional discharge.

There are four legal presumptions associated with New York Penal Law 165.55, the following are the two relevant ones in this case:
  1. A person who knowingly possesses stolen property is presumed to possess it with intent to benefit himself or a person other than an owner thereof or to impede the recovery by an owner thereof. This presumption is often referred to as recent exclusive possession.” There has been a tremendous body of case law addressing this presumption which argues for the position that if an accused has had the exclusive possession of stolen property after a theft crime has been perpetrated and there is evidence or circumstances which show an inability to explain where the property came from, a negative inference may in fact be drawn. That inference being that there is a strong likelihood that the accused knew that the property he or she possessed was stolen.
  2. A collateral loan broker or a person in the business of buying, selling or otherwise dealing in property who possesses stolen property is presumed to know that such property was stolen if he obtained it without having ascertained by reasonable inquiry that the person from whom he obtained it had a legal right to possess it.
Conspiracy in the fourth degree – NY Penal Law 105.10(1)

A person is guilty of conspiracy in the fourth degree when, with intent that conduct constituting:
  1. a class B or class C felony be performed, he or she agrees with one or more persons to engage in or cause the performance of such conduct; 

The pending case against New York art dealer Nancy Wiener the New York Penal Law 105.10(1) would be classified as a “E” non violent felony.  Punishment ranges for this offence range from no jail with probation to up to four years in state prison.

Conspiracy is relatively easy for prosecutors to prove because New York law does not require exact proof of language used in an agreement to commit a crime, and only requires the testimony of one party.  As seen in the complaint we published yesterday, there appears to be sufficient testimony to make this conspiracy charge stick.

Difference between a Criminal Complaint and a Criminal Indictment

A criminal complaint lists the charges that the prosecuting attorney will file against a person. It typically describes the nature of the offence and consists simply of a signed affidavit by the accuser.

A criminal indictment would be a written document, usually presented before a grand jury who decides if the charges warrant further action.  Criminal complaints require sworn testimony given under oath for the courts to move forward with the case.

UPDATE: Checking records at the New York State Unified Court System for this case, it now appears that this defendant has been indicted on Conspiracy in the fourth degree.    The defendant has entered a "Not Guilty" plea and has been released on her own recognisance.  Her next court appearance has been scheduled for February 28, 2017.

Who are the players mentioned in the antiquities looting network outlined in the criminal complaint?

From the content of the criminal complaint issued by New York prosecutors we get a preliminary outline of the pertinent facts alleged in the case that will then be presented in court should Ms. Wiener's case move on to trial.   The portrait painted by prosecutors illustrates what looks to be a complex network of looters, middlemen, and antiquities dealers that suggests the mentioned players have benefited financially from the trade in illicit antiquities for a number of years.

Here is a distilled summary of the key persons mentioned within the criminal complaint

Informant #1 - According to the criminal complaint this cooperating individual is a dealer in illegal antiquities known to the District Attorney. In the complaint Informant #1

  • allegedly implicated Co-Conspirator #1 in the purchase and sale of the Baphuon Shiva from Cambodia.
  • allegedly reported that Nancy Wiener had removed all records of where, when, from whom, and for how much each antiquity was acquired
  • allegedly reported that Nancy Wiener later told informant #1 that the records no longer existed. 
  • allegedly provided information on the Sharod Singh connection with the looted red sandstone relief (“Red Sandstone Couple”), from India, dated to the 1st–2nd Century C.E., 
  • allegedly provided information on the Vaman Ghiya connection with the a stolen mottled red sandstone relief depicting a Bacchanalian scene, dated to the 2nd Century C.E., 
  • allegedly implicated Co-Conspirator #5 in the sale to Doris Wiener of a silver-inlaid gilt bronze figure of Avalokiteshvara from Northeastern India or Western Tibet (China), dated to 10th-11th C.E.,
  • allegedly reported seeing objects procured by Co-Conspirator #6 the purchased by Nancy Wiener in New York unrestored, unmounted and/or without bases - classic signs of looting. 

Informant #2 - According to the criminal complaint this cooperating individual is another dealer in looted antiquities known to the District Attorney.  In the complaint Informant #2

  • allegedly provided information on the Naga Buddha
  • allegedly implicated Nancy Wiener in the purchase of Seated Buddha #1 from trafficker Vaman Ghiya
  • allegedly implicated Nancy Wiener in the purchase of Seated Buddha #2 from trafficker Vaman Ghiya
  • allegedly implicated Subpash Kapoor in the purchase and smuggling of the stolen Krishna Dancing on Kaliya (cobra) from Tamil Nadu, India, dating from the Chola Period (11th-12th Century)
  • allegedly implicated Co-Conspirator #4 in the handling and restoration of the stolen Krishna Dancing on Kaliya (cobra) from Tamil Nadu, India, dating from the Chola Period (11th-12th Century)
  • allegedly implicated Co-Conspirator #1 in the purchase of the stolen Krishna Dancing on Kaliya (cobra) from Tamil Nadu, India, dating from the Chola Period (11th-12th Century)
  • allegedly implicated Co-Conspirator #5 as being an antiquities smuggler of Tibetan descent based in Nepal and Hong Kong who was in frequent email contact with Defendant about illicit pieces from Nepal. 
  • allegedly implicated Co-Conspirator #6 and his father as being suppliers of illicit cultural property from primarily Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • allegedly provided information on false provenance provided for Christie's sale created for pieces that passed between Nancy Wiener and Co-Conspirator #6 

Informant #3 - According to the criminal complaint this cooperating individual is another dealer in looted antiquities known to the District Attorney.  In the complaint Informant #3
  • allegedly provided information on false provenance provided by Nancy Wiener for the Red Sandstone Couple
Co-conspirator #1 - According to the criminal complaint co-conspirator #1
  • allegedly is an antiquities dealer based in London and Bangkok
  • allegedly entered into an agreement with Nancy Wiener to purchase and sell a looted Baphuon Shiva from Cambodia, dated to the 11th Century C.E
  • allegedly shipped the Baphuon Shiva to London to be “cleaned, put together, and mounted.”
  • allegedly sold Nancy Wiener a bronze Buddha sitting on a throne of Naga stolen from Thailand or Cambodia, dated to the 10th Century C.E.
  • allegedly falsified provenance along with Nancy Wiener and Co-conspirator 2 for the bronze Buddha sitting on a throne of Naga stolen from Thailand or Cambodia, dated to the 10th Century C.E.
  • allegedly is a male 
  • allegedly admitted in email that he gave Co-Conspirator #2 bronze statues in exchange for false letters of provenance
  • allegedly purchased the Krishna Dancing on Kaliya from Subhash Kapoor
  • allegedly colluded with Nancy Wiener to create appraisal report for the Krishna Dancing on Kaliya 
Co-conspirator #2 - According to the criminal complaint co-conspirator #2
  • allegedly is a female research consultant for an American museum 
  • allegedly falsified provenance along with Nancy Wiener and Co-conspirator 1 for the bronze Buddha sitting on a throne of Naga stolen from Thailand or Cambodia, dated to the 10th Century C.E.
  • allegedly implicated by Co-conspirator #1 who stated he gave Co-Conspirator #2 bronze statues in exchange for false letters of provenance.
Co-conspirator #3 - According to the criminal complaint co-conspirator #3
  • allegedly is a New York-based restorer, 
  • allegedly restored the bronze Buddha sitting on a throne of Naga stolen from Thailand or Cambodia, dated to the 10th Century C.E. despite it having been struck by an agricultural tool, resulting in a jagged break - a sign of looting. 
  • allegedly restored the stolen marble Apsara ceiling panel.
Co-conspirator #4, - According to the criminal complaint co-conspirator #4
  • allegedly is a U.K.-based restorer used by Subhash Kapoor and Co-conspirator #1
  • allegedly restored the Krishna Dancing on Kaliya (cobra) stolen from Tamil Nadu, India, dating from the Chola Period (11th-12th Century).
Co-conspirator #5 - According to the criminal complaint co-conspirator #5
  • allegedly is an antiquities smuggler of Tibetan descent based in Nepal and Hong Kong. 
  • allegedly sold Doris Wiener a silver-inlaid gilt bronze figure of Avalokiteshvara.
  • allegedly incriminated Doris Wiener for providing false provenance on the silver-inlaid gilt bronze figure of Avalokiteshvara.
Co-conspirator #6 - According to the criminal complaint co-conspirator #6
  • allegedly is a male
  • and his father are allegedly suppliers of illicit cultural property from primarily Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • allegedly grew up in Pakistan and England. 
  • allegedly was implicated in several recorded conversations for shipping large quantities of newly dug-up, stolen antiquities from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Thailand, often via Hong Kong, and then to dealers from around the world.  
  • allegedly was implicated in selling Doris Wiener 14 stolen antiquities
Other individuals who are mentioned in the complaint

Vaman Ghiya - According to the criminal complaint, seized documents and statements made by informant #2 implicate Weiner in the purchase of the Seated Buddha #1 from Vaman Ghiya, someone who was listed as a long-time supplier from India who often used "Shantoo" to sell his looted antiquities. According to seized documents and informant #1, Doris Wiener was allegedly implicated in buying a stolen mottled red sandstone relief depicting a Bacchanalian scene from Ghiya that Wiener then allegedly falsely claiming that her mother had acquired from a private collection in London.

Ghiya is a known antiquities smuggler who allegedly confessed to selling 10,000 objects of Indian art via Sotheby’s—subject of a BBC sting operation.  Convicted in 2008 and sentenced to life imprisonment, the conviction was quashed on appeal because of procedural irregularities during the police prosecution.


Ranjeet Kanwar - According to the criminal complaint and statements by a former employee of Kapoor, “Shantoo” is the alleged nickname of Ranjeet Kanwar, one of Subhash Kapoor's alleged main suppliers of stolen antiquities from India.  His name appears on a computer disk file folder that contained three pictures of looted Seated Buddha #1 found at the Sofia Bros. Storage, in New York County, a storage facility rented by Subhash Kapoor.

Om Sharma - According to the criminal complaint, seized emails and statements by informants #1 and #2, it is alleged that Om Sharma is a supplier of illicit antiquities from India.  Wiener allegedly bought the stolen red sandstone figure depicting a Jain goddess from Sharma in 2009. The complaint also states that in August 2010, “Victor” had allegedly emailed Doris and Nancy Wiener separately to offer one of the Apsara Marbles, attaching pictures of the dirty, unrestored sculpture on the ground with what appeared to be cut marks. According to statements from informants #1 and #2, “Victor” is the alleged email pseudonym for Om and Badal Sharma.

Sharod Singh - According to the criminal complaint, informants #1 and #2, it is alleged that Sharod Singh is a supplier of illicit antiquities from India. According to emails and records provided by informant #1, Doris Wiener allegedly purchased a looted red sandstone relief (“Red Sandstone Couple”) from this individual in 2002 and the allegedly smuggled it into the US via via Kurt Anderson, Inc., a corporation owned by her.

The authorities have stated that they executed more than 50 search warrants as part of this investigation.




December 25, 2016

A criminal complaint that reads like a recipe for of illicit antiquities laundering: THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK FELONY vs. Nancy Wiener

This 12-page complaint filed in Manhattan Criminal Court, signed by Special Agent Brenton Easter of the Department of Homeland Security, lays out the charges against New York art dealer Nancy Wiener through her gallery Nancy Wiener Gallery.

The complaint is a textbook formula of how looted antiquities are laundered onto the licit art market through poor controls and a lack of ethics and transparency among the major players in the art market. 

The transcription below is the html version of the Court's PDF file version located here.

ARCA has elected to transcribe the document to make it searchable by future scholars conducting open source research on known traffickers. 



Page 1 of 12 

CRIMINAL COURT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK 
COUNTY OF NEW YORK 
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK FELONY 
-against- 
Nancy Wiener (F34), Defendant. 

Felony

ADA Matthew Bogdanos 
(212) 335-9323

Special Agent Brenton Easter, Shield 3014 of the Department of HomelandSecurity Investigations, states as follows: 

The defendant is charged with: 
1 PL 165.54 Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the First Degree (defendant #1: 1 count) 
2 PL 165.52 Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Second Degree (defendant #1: 1 count) 
3 PL 105.10(1) Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (defendant #1: 1 count) 

At the times and places described below in the County and State of New York, the defendant knowingly possessed stolen property with a value in excess of one million dollars with intent to benefit a person other than an owner of the property and to impede recovery by an owner thereof; the defendant knowingly possessed stolen property with a value in excess of 50,000 dollars with intent to benefit a person than an owner of the property and to impede recovery by an owner thereof; the defendant, with intent that conduct constituting a class B or C felony be performed, agreed with one or more persons to engage in and cause the performance of such conduct. 

The factual basis for these charges are as follows: 

Deponent, a Special Agent with DHS-HSI, states that since approximately 2007, he has been assigned to a squad responsible for investigating, among other things, money laundering, smuggling of contraband, art fraud, and the interstate sale and transportation of stolen cultural property. As a Special Agent, Deponent has led or joined teams of agents and officers in the execution of judicially-authorized search and arrest warrants seeking the arrest of individuals and recovery of property and evidence in connection with illegal importations and exportations, and with the interstate and foreign transportation and sale of stolen goods. 

Deponent states that, based on participation in this and other investigations, he is familiar

Page 2 of 12 

CRIMINAL COURT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK 
COUNTY OF NEW YORK 
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK FELONY 
-against- 
Nancy Wiener (F34), Defendant. 

Felony

ADA Matthew Bogdanos 
(212) 335-9323

with the facts and circumstances of this investigation through the following: personal participation; discussions with agents in DHS-HSI and other foreign and domestic law enforcement agencies; interviews of witnesses, including cooperating witnesses that he has worked with on this and other cases; and records and reports relating to, or generated from, this investigation. No attempt has been made to set forth the complete details of this investigation that include tens of thousands of emails, documents, and photographs recovered pursuant to more than fifty judicially authorized search warrants. Statements andfacts listed have been summarized for the specific purposes of this complaint. 

CONSPIRACY. Between at least 1999 and 2016, with intent that conduct constituting the crimes of Grand Larceny in the First and Second Degrees and Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the First and Second Degrees be performed, the Defendant utilized her business, Nancy Wiener Gallery, 49 East 74th Street, New York County, to buy, smuggle, launder, and sell millions of dollars’ worth of antiquities stolen from Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, India, Pakistan, and Thailand. 

A. OBJECTIVES AND METHODS OF THE CONSPIRACY. Defendant and her co-conspirators have trafficked in illegal antiquities for decades. Transporting looted cultural property from the site of the theft to the ultimate buyer through intermediary countries in order to hide the true country of origin, Defendant used a laundering process that included restoration services to hide damage from illegal excavations, straw purchases at auction houses to create sham ownership histories, and the creation of false provenance to predate international laws of patrimony prohibiting the exportation of looted antiquities. 

B. OVERT ACTS. 

1. BAPHUON SHIVA. According to documents provided by informant #1, a dealer in illegal antiquities known to the District Attorney, there was an agreement between Defendant and an antiquities dealer based in London and Bangkok (“Co-Conspirator #1.”) to purchase and sell a Baphuon Shiva from Cambodia, dated to the 11th Century C.E., 39.5 inches high, depicting Shiva standing, and valued at $578,500. Exhibit A. 

Baphuon Shiva, Cambodia
According to emails seized pursuant to search warrants, Defendant and Co-Conspirator #1 bought the Baphuon Shiva in September 2008 “direct from a supplier, and not through a

Page 3 of 12 

CRIMINAL COURT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK 
COUNTY OF NEW YORK 
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK FELONY 
-against- 
Nancy Wiener (F34), Defendant. 

Felony

ADA Matthew Bogdanos 
(212) 335-9323

dealer” for $250,000. According to informants #1 and #2 (another dealer in looted antiquities known to the District Attorney), buying from a “supplier” is an indication of a looted antiquity. Co-Conspirator #1 then shipped the Baphuon Shiva to London to be “cleaned, put together, and mounted.” In my experience, and according to informants #1 and #2, looted antiquities need to be “cleaned” of tell-tale dirt and debris; “put together,” because stolen statues are often cut up into smaller pieces-called “orphans”-for ease of smuggling; and “mounted,” because stolen statues and reliefs are, often cut from their original pedestal or wall. 

According to seized documents, Defendant then consigned the Baphuon Shiva to Sotheby's New York, for its 2011 sale of “Indian and Southeast Asian Works of Art.” In May 2010, a Sotheby’s employee noted that the Baphuon Shiva had “cracks and joins dressed up with paint splatters to mask repairs.” In my experience, and according to informants #1 and #2, because shovels and picks are frequently used during the clandestine theft of antiquities, such damage is often a sign of looting. According to seized emails, Defendant told Sotheby's the statue had been purchased from antiquities dealer Spink & Son around 1968, but that she had no written proof. In my experience, and according to informants #1 and #2, misrepresenting the true provenance of an antiquity is essential for selling stolen items in the market, because false provenance prevents the items from being easily traced and enables ownership records to be falsified to predate the patrimony laws of the antiquity’s country of origin. Sotheby’s sold the Baphuon Shiva as lot 29 from its showroom at 1334 York Avenue, New York County on March 24, 2011, for $578,500

2. NAGA BUDDHA. In November 2011, Co-Conspirator #1 sold Defendant for $500,000 a stolen bronze Buddha from Thailand or Cambodia, dated to the 10th Century C.E., 17.75 inches high, depicting Buddha sitting on a throne of Naga (snake), with a market value of $1,500,000. Exhibit B. According to informant #2, the Naga Buddha came from the Khmer Empire-present-day Cambodia and parts of Thailand.

Buddha sitting on a Naga (snake) throne
According to seized emails, Defendant had earlier begun falsifying the Naga Buddha's provenance with Co-Conspirator #1 and Co-Conspirator #2 (who works as a research consultant for an American museum) by arranging for a photograph of the Naga Buddha to be published in a 2011 book. In my experience, and according to informants #1 and #2, publishing a photograph of a looted antiquity is a common laundering practice. In another

Page 4 of 12 

CRIMINAL COURT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK 
COUNTY OF NEW YORK 
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK FELONY 
-against- 
Nancy Wiener (F34), Defendant. 

Felony

ADA Matthew Bogdanos 
(212) 335-9323

email, Co-Conspirator #2 wrote that she had “changed” the provenance “a bit,” asking Co-Conspirator #1 if the changes were “okay.” Co-Conspirator #1 then emailed Defendant, seeking her approval. In another email, Co-Conspirator #1 told Defendant that he typically gave Co-Conspirator #2 bronze statues in exchange for false letters of provenance. 

In January 2016, Defendant shipped the Naga Buddha to a New York-based restorer (“Co-Conspirator #3”) for restoration, stating its value to be $850,000. In February 2016, Co-Conspirator #3 emailed Defendant a bill for the restoration, noting that the Naga Buddha appeared to have been struck by an agricultural tool, resulting in a jagged break - a sign of looting. Defendant displayed the Naga Buddha for sale for $1,500,000 in the Nancy Wiener Gallery until Deponent seized it pursuant to a warrant in March 2016. 

3. TWO SEATED BUDDHAS. In 1999, Defendant possessed, through her gallery, a stolen sandstone seated Buddha, from India, dated to the 1st-3rd Century C.E., 33 inches high and valued at $500,000 (“Seated Buddha #1"). Exhibit C. In 2000, Defendant sold the statue to Singapore’s Asian Civilisations Museum (“Singapore”) without any statement of provenance. Years later, when Singapore requested provenance, Defendant first claimed that Seated Buddha #1 had belonged to an unnamed European collection for at least 35 to 40 years, but then stated that the owner's father had acquired the piece in India. According to seized emails, Defendant then provided a third version: that the piece had belonged to Ian Donaldson, who purchased it when posted to Vietnam between 1964 and 1966. 

Pursuant to a search warrant executed at Sofia Bros. Storage, in New York County, a storage facility rented by separately charged defendant Subhash Kapoor (“Kapoor”) for his business, Art of the Past, Deponent discovered an unlabeled computer disc containing a folder titled “Shantoo.” According to a former employee of Kapoor, “Shantoo” is the nickname of Ranjeet Kanwar, one of Kapoor's main suppliers of stolen antiquities from India. The disc contained three pictures of Seated Buddha #1; in one, dated “92 11 8,” the statue appearsstill wet as it lay on a dirty floor in front of a makeshift black backdrop. Exhibit D. According to informant #2 and seized documents, Defendant purchased Seated Buddha #1 from Vaman Ghiya, a long-time supplier from India who often used Shantoo to sell his looted antiquities. 

According to informant #2 and seized documents, Defendant also acquired a second stolen

Page 5 of 12 

CRIMINAL COURT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK 
COUNTY OF NEW YORK 
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK FELONY 
-against- 
Nancy Wiener (F34), Defendant. 

Felony

ADA Matthew Bogdanos 
(212) 335-9323

seated Buddha (“Seated Buddha #2”) from Ghiya, possessing it through her gallery until she sold it to the National Gallery of Australia (“Australia”), in Canberra, Australia, in 2007 for $1,080,000. Exhibit E. In May 2006, Defendant told an employee of the NGA that she had purchased Seated Buddha #2 in 2000, “but knew of it several years prior to that,” and that “[i]t was originally purchased in Hong Kong by an Englishman posted there between1964-66.” When asked for proof, Defendant again used the name Ian Donaldson. Thus, for Australia, she claimed Ian Donaldson had been posted to Hong Kong between 1964-66, despite the fact that she told Singapore Ian Donaldson “was posted to Vietnam.” between 1964–66. 

4. KRISHNA. Pursuant to a search warrant executed at Kapoor's gallery at 1242 Madison Ave, in New York County, Deponent discovered a computer with an e-file entitled “travel.” A subfolder entitled “05 10 India” contained pictures of cultural property Kapoor purchased in India in October 2005 and later smuggled to New York. Some of these pictures depict Krishna Dancing on Kaliya (cobra) from Tamil Nadu, India, dating from the Chola Period (11th-12th Century). Exhibits F-G. In the pictures, the statue was still encrusted with dirt - in my experience, and according to informants #1 and #2, this indicates recent looting. 

According to informant #2, Kapoor purchased the Krishna in India and smuggled it to NewYork hidden in a shipment of legal handicrafts - in my experience, this is a common practice to evade U.S. Customs. According to a document recovered from Kapoor's computer, Kapoor sent the statue in June 2006 to a U.K. -based restorer (“Co-Conspirator #4”) for restoration to hide the signs of looting. According to informant #2 and seized emails, Co-Conspirator #1 - who frequently used Co-Conspirator #4 to clean and restore stolen cultural property - saw the Krishna during restoration and bought it. Another document on Kapoor's computer records the sale to Co-Conspirator #1 for “650,000.00” on “30-Aug.” 

According to seized emails, in June 2011, Co-Conspirator #1 emailed Defendant pre- and post-restoration pictures of the stolen Krishna, and requested that Defendant prepare an appraisal to assist in the future sale of the statue. According to a document on her computer, “Asian treasures Final v4,” Defendant provided an appraisal for $3,500,000. 

4. DORIS WIENER COLLECTION. According to documents on Defendant’s computer, upon Doris Wiener's death in April 2011, antiquities that had been owned by Doris Wiener

Page 6 of 12 

CRIMINAL COURT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK 
COUNTY OF NEW YORK 
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK FELONY 
-against- 
Nancy Wiener (F34), Defendant. 

Felony

ADA Matthew Bogdanos 
(212) 335-9323

Gallery in New York County were transferred to the estate of Doris Wiener, of which Defendant was co-executor. According to informant #1, Defendant removed all records ofwhere, when, from whom, and for how much each piece was acquired (filling multiple file cabinets) and later told informant #1 that the records no longer existed. 

According to seized emails, Defendant contacted Sotheby's New York to sell the collection, but could not provide documentation that the antiquities had been removed from their countries of origin prior to each country’s patrimony laws. According to Tess Davis, an expert in the laws of patrimony, those years are 1980 for Afghanistan, 1900 for Cambodia, 1982 for China, 1972 for India, 1956 for Nepal, 1975 for Pakistan, and 1961 for Thailand. 

According to seized emails, Defendant instead consigned the collection to Christie's New York, because their policy requires only that an antiquity have been out of its country of origin prior to 2000 (or 1999 for Cambodia), regardless of that country’s patrimony law. In November 2011, Christie's requested provenance information for the “top 20 lots” of the sale, and Defendant provided a document, “Provenance and Country of Origin Details,” that contained false provenance. According to that document, of the 380 lots in the collection, ten came from Spink & Son (an antiquities dealer Defendant had falsely listed as provenance for other stolen antiquities); and four were originally owned by Doris Wiener (who had consigned them for auction to Sotheby’s or Christie's and then reacquired them - in my experience, and according to informants #1 and #2, this type of straw purchase is a common laundering tactic to create a false ownership history). Of the remaining 366 lots, eight were listed with an ownership history prior to Doris Wiener. Six of those eight listed Sotheby’s or Christie's, one listed a “member of the Diplomatic Corps,” and one listed an actual name. For the 380 lots, then, Defendant provided the name of an owner prior to Doris Wiener (other than Spink & Son) for one lot. Christie's offered all 380 lots for sale from its showroom at 20 Rockefeller Plaza, New York County, on March 20, 2012, resulting in a total sale of $12,796,437. 

This portion of the conspiracy utilized the following trafficking networks: 

a. OM SHARMA NETWORK. According to seized emails and informants #1 and #2, Om Sharma is a supplier of illicit antiquities from India. Beginning in 2008, Doris Wiener had a series of email exchanges with Sharma about buying a stolen red sandstone figure, from

Page 7 of 12 

CRIMINAL COURT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK 
COUNTY OF NEW YORK 
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK FELONY 
-against- 
Nancy Wiener (F34), Defendant. 

Felony

ADA Matthew Bogdanos 
(212) 335-9323

India, dated to the 12th Century C.E., 26 inches high, depicting a Jain goddess, and valued at $74,500. According to these emails, Doris Wiener had seen the Jain Goddess still wet and pre-restoration-signs of looting. Exhibits H-J. She bought the statue in 2009, wiring the money to Hong Kong, and smuggled the piece to her New York gallery. 

This Jain Goddess was one of the pieces consigned by Defendant to Christie's (lot 48) for its sale of March 20, 2012. According to seized emails, Defendant falsely claimed to Christie's that the Jain Goddess had been in a private collection in London dating back to the 1980s, before her mother acquired it in New York in 2009. It sold for $74,500. 

b. SHAROD SINGH NETWORK. According to informants #1 and #2, Sharod Singh is a supplier of illicit antiquities from India. According to emails and records provided by informant #1, Doris Wiener in 2002 bought a looted red sandstone relief (“Red Sandstone Couple”), from India, dated to the 1st–2nd Century C.E., and valued at $150,000. Exhibit K. Doris Wiener then smuggled the relief into the United States via Kurt Anderson, Inc., a corporation owned by her to facilitate the importation of looted antiquities. Her 2007 Kurt Anderson account ledger lists a red sandstone couple as line #49, “Sharod Singh Seated Stones (3) Partnership with Nancy, S1044-S1047, $150,000.00.” 

This Red Sandstone Couple was one of the pieces Defendant consigned to Christie's (lot 22) for its sale of March 20, 2012. According to seized emails, Defendant first told Christie's that her mother had acquired the relief “in London in the late 1990’s.” During a recorded conversation after the sale, Defendant admitted using a surrogate to purchase the statue for herself at auction—a tactic often used to launder the statue and later sell it at a higher price as a previously “published” piece. According to recovered documents, and to complete the laundering process, Defendant then changed the provenance to “the 1970s,” and received a certificate from the Art Loss Register. In March of 2016, informant #3, another dealer in illegal antiquities, saw the Red Sandstone Couple at the Nancy Wiener Gallery. Defendant offered the relief for sale, using a third provenance: that it had been in her mother's collection since 1992. As proof of its legitimacy, Defendant noted its publication in a catalogue as part of her mother's estate sale at Christie's in 2012. 

According to seized documents, Defendant also consigned to Christie's four other pieces from her mother's collection that had come from the Singh Network (lots 23, 24, 47, and

Page 8 of 12 

CRIMINAL COURT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK 
COUNTY OF NEW YORK 
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK FELONY 
-against- 
Nancy Wiener (F34), Defendant. 

Felony

ADA Matthew Bogdanos 
(212) 335-9323

67). In total, three of these five pieces sold at Christie's on March 20, 2012, for $70,000.00. 

c. VAMAN GHIYA NETWORK. In August 1992, Defendant sent a fax document to the supplier Vaman Ghiya (listed above), requesting that he “[p]lease call Nancy Wiener at the Hotel Storchen in Zurich immediately.” That same year, according to seized documents and informant #1, Doris Wiener bought a stolen mottled red sandstone relief depicting a Bacchanalian scene, dated to the 2nd Century C.E., 25 1/2 inches high, and valued at $180,000, from Ghiya in India. Exhibit L. This relief was consigned by Defendant to Christie's (lot 20) for its sale of March 20, 2012. According to seized documents, Defendant falsely claimed that her mother had acquired it from a private collection in London. 

According to seized emails and documents, Defendant consigned to Christie's five other pieces from her mother's collection that had come from the Ghiya Network (lots 20, 21, 27, 45, 49, 55). For two of the consigned statues (lot 49 - Exhibit M and lot 55 - Exhibit O), there were pictures in the Shantoo (Ranjeet Kanwar) file on Kapoor's computer showing the pieces still in situ. Exhibits N and P.  Five of these six pieces sold at Christie's on March 20, 2012, for $478,750.

d. THE HIMALAYAN NETWORK. According to seized documents and informant #2, Co-Conspirator #5 is an antiquities smuggler of Tibetan descent based in Nepal and Hong Kong who was in frequent email contact with Defendant about illicit pieces from Nepal. According to informant #1, in 2002, Co-Conspirator #5 sold Doris Wiener a silver-inlaid gilt bronze figure of Avalokiteshvara from Northeastern India or Western Tibet (China), dated to 10th-11th C.E., and valued at $812,500. Exhibit Q. This Avalokiteshvara was one of the pieces consigned by Defendant to Christie's (lot 87) for its sale of March 20, 2012. According to seized emails, Defendant falsely claimed to Christie's that her mother had acquired the relief from a “private collection, Europe, early 1990’s.” During a recorded conversation in March 2016, Co-Conspirator #5 was asked if the provenance in the Christie's catalogue provided by Defendant for the “Silver-inlaid Gilt Bronze Figure of Avalokiteshvara,” was accurate. Co-Conspirator #5 laughed and said defendant knew that he had acquired the statue from Tibet and sold it to Doris Wiener. This statue sold at Christie's on March 20, 2012, for $812,500. 



e. THE GANDHARAN NETWORK. According to informant #2, Co-Conspirator #6 and

Page 9 of 12 

CRIMINAL COURT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK 
COUNTY OF NEW YORK 
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK FELONY 
-against- 
Nancy Wiener (F34), Defendant. 

Felony

ADA Matthew Bogdanos 
(212) 335-9323

his father are suppliers of illicit cultural property from primarily Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to several recorded conversations, Co-Conspirator #6 has been shipping large quantities of newly dug-up, stolen antiquities from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Thailand, often via Hong Kong, and then to dealers from around the world for more than a decade. 

According to seized sales invoices, Doris Wiener purchased 14 stolen antiquities in January 2011 from Co-Conspirator #6, including a gray schist relief Buddha receiving a golden bowl, a gray schist relief Buddha receiving the sheaf of grass, a gray schist relief Buddha and the devotees, all dated to 2nd-3rd Century, all between 17–20 inches high, all from Afghanistanor Pakistan, and valued at a total of $32,000. Exhibits R-T. According to informant #1, who saw the artifacts upon their arrival in New York from Asia, they were unrestored, unmounted and/or without bases - classic signs of looting. These reliefs were consigned by Defendant to Christie's (lots 1, 2, 3) for its sale of March 20, 2012.


According to seized documents, Defendant consigned to Christie's six other pieces that had come from Co-Conspirator #6 or his father (lots 5, 7, 14, 16, 18, and 38) for the sale. For six of the nine pieces, Defendant falsely claimed that her mother had acquired the pieces from a “Private Collector, Thailand, mid-1980s or earlier” (lots 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 18). According to informant #2, that provenance was false because the “private collector” was Co-Conspirator #6, who in the mid-1980s was a child living in Pakistan and England. According to seized documents, for two of the three remaining pieces, Christie's altered the provenance, changing Defendant’s “by late 1990s” to “by late 1980s” for lot 14 and changing “2011” to“by 1996” for lot 7. On March 20, 2012, eight of these nine pieces sold at Christie's for $196,500. 

CRIMINAL POSSESSION OF STOLEN PROPERTY IN THE FIRST DEGREE: NAGA BUDDHA. As noted above, in November 2011, Co-Conspirator #1 sold to Defendant for $500,000 a stolen bronze Buddha depicting Buddha sitting on a throne of Naga (snake), from Thailand or Cambodia, dated to the 10th Century C.E., 17.75 incheshigh. Exhibit B. Defendant displayed the Naga Buddha for sale for its market value of $1,500,000 in her gallery, until it was seized pursuant to a warrant in March 2016. 

CRIMINAL POSSESSION OF STOLEN PROPERTY IN THE SECOND DEGREE: THE APSARA MARBLES. From on or about September 2010 to on or about at least

Page 10 of 12 

CRIMINAL COURT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK 
COUNTY OF NEW YORK 
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK FELONY 
-against- 
Nancy Wiener (F34), Defendant. 

Felony

ADA Matthew Bogdanos 
(212) 335-9323

March 2016, Defendant possessed a stolen marble Apsara ceiling panel depicting a female figure (“Apsara Marble”), from India, dated to the 10th Century A.D., 44 inches tall, and valued at $500,000. According to theft reports prepared by the Archaeological Survey of India (“ASI”) and filed with Interpol, a total of six celestial marble statutes were stolen from the ceiling of the Toos temple in India between November 2009 and September 2010. Exhibits U-V. According to seized emails, in September and October 2010, Defendant received several emails about the theft of the Apsara Marbles as well as pictures of the stolen statues. A month earlier, in August 2010, “Victor” had emailed Doris and Nancy Wiener separately to offer one of the Apsara Marbles, attaching pictures of the dirty, unrestored sculpture on the ground with what appeared to be cut marks. Exhibit W. According to informants #1 and #2, “Victor” is the email pseudonym for Om and Badal Sharma (see paragraph 5a above). According to a recorded conversation of a former employee of the Nancy Wiener Gallery, this Apsara Marble arrived at the Gallery around the same time as this string of emails, and then Defendant sent it to Co-Conspirator #3 for restoration. According to emails and documents seized from Defendant’s computer, she was still in possession of the Apsara Marble in March 2016. 

Tess Davis, a member of the New York State Bar and affiliate of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at the University of Glasgow, has conducted extensive field research on the illicit trade in Asian antiquities since 2004. 

Afghanistan. Ms. Davis is familiar with the cultural property laws of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, including the 1980 Law on Protection of Historical and Cultural Properties as modified in 2004, and the 1958 Code for the Protection of Antiquities. According to Ms. Davis, this legal regime protects cultural heritage, vesting its ownership in the state. 

Cambodia. Ms. Davis is familiar with Cambodian law governing cultural patrimony,including, inter alia, Arrété du Gouverneur Général de l'Indochine sur la conservation desmonuments et objets ayant un intérêt historique ou artistique du 9 mars 1900; Arrété relativeau classement, à la conservation et à la protection des monuments historiques des pays deprotectorat du 11 juillet 1925; 1968 Law on the Organization of Suppressing the Acts of Stealing, Receipt of Stolen Goods, and Destruction of Patrimony Relating to the National Heritage; 1992 Land Law; 1996 Law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage; and 2001 Land Law. According to Ms. Davis, this legal regime protects cultural heritage, vesting its


Page 11 of 12 

CRIMINAL COURT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK 
COUNTY OF NEW YORK 
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK FELONY 
-against- 
Nancy Wiener (F34), Defendant. 

Felony

ADA Matthew Bogdanos 
(212) 335-9323

ownership in the state. 

China. Ms. Davis is familiar with the cultural property laws of the People's Republic of China, which includes the Tibet Autonomous Region, including the Law on Protection of Cultural Relics (of 19 November 1982 as revised on 29 June 1991 and 28 October 2002). According to Ms. Davis, this and the country’s broader legal regime protects cultural heritage, vesting ownership of immoveable and moveable “cultural relics” in the state. 

India. Ms. Davis is familiar with the cultural patrimony laws of India, including theAntiquities and Art Treasures Act of 1972, along with the Antiquities and Art Treasures Rules, 1973 (updated January 2012), and the Ancient and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958 (updated in 2010). According to Ms. Davis, this legal regime protects culturalheritage, vesting its ownership in the state. 

Nepal. Ms. Davis is familiar with the cultural property laws of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, including the Ancient Monuments Protection Act of 1956 as amended in1964, 1970, and 1994. According to Ms. Davis, this legal regime protects ancient monuments and archaeological objects, vesting its ownership in the state. 

Pakistan. Ms. Davis is familiar with the cultural property laws of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, including the 1975 Antiquities Act (as amended in 1992), and its predecessors the Antiquities Act of 1968 and Ancient Monuments Preservation Act of 1904. According to Ms. Davis, this legal regime protects archaeological sites and objects, vesting the ownership of undiscovered antiquities in the state. 

Thailand. Ms. Davis is familiar with the cultural property laws of the Kingdom of Thailand, including the 1961 Act on Ancient Monuments, Antiquities, Objects of Art, and National Museums (as amended in 1992). According to Ms. Davis, this legal regime protects archaeological sites and objects, vesting its ownership in the state.

Page 12 of 12 

CRIMINAL COURT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK 
COUNTY OF NEW YORK 
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK FELONY 
-against- 
Nancy Wiener (F34), Defendant. 

Felony

ADA Matthew Bogdanos 
(212) 335-9323

False statements made in this written instrument are punishable as a class A misdemeanor pursuant to section 210.45 of the Penal Law, and as other crimes. 

Signed, Special Agent Brenton Easter 
Date December 21, 2016
Time: 11:40

September 23, 2016

“Decorative Panels for the Garden” Since when has garden furniture been the code word for antiquities?




The cargo was shipped labeled as “pierres d'ornement pour décoration de jardin” (ornamental stonework for garden decoration) and arrived on March 10, 2016 in transit from Lebanon to Thailand via Paris Charles de Gaulle/Roissy Airport (French: Aéroport de Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle, IATA: CDG, ICAO: LFPG).  Attracting the attention of customs authorities, the crate was inspected based on data originating from the ICS (Import Control System) that came into force in the European Union at the end of 2010.

The ICS is an eSecurity Declaration Management System used for the importation of goods into the European Union customs territory. Designed in part to deal with the massive volume of cargo that passes through the EU annually, the new regulation requires that a certain number of data elements be sent to the EU customs office at the first port of entry, by a specific deadline, in this case, at least 4 hours before the long haul transiting cargo was scheduled to arrive at the first airport in the territory.  

In most cases this type of prearrival information is transmitted by the sender before the shipment has even left the country of export. Upon receipt of the Entry Summary Declaration message, what is known as the cargo's ENS, the customs office at the port of arrival can then elect to order a shipment pulled where it will undergo a security-related risk analysis.  

When the ENS arrived for the innocuously labeled garden decorations, the identifying data supplied, plus the shipping crates weight (108 kilos), and the cargo's shipper and recipient raised questions.   To be thorough, customs authorities earmarked the container for a cross-check.  

While examining its contents, search officers did not find ordinary household decorations mass produced for a garden, instead they found what appeared to be two original bas-reliefs intricately dotted with grape clusters and birds with no export license from any country of origin.  Called in for consultation, the Department of Antiquities at the Musée du Louvre believe that the carved stone reliefs are authentic and likely dating from between the 14th and the 16th century CE, possibly originating from the middle Euphrates valley, (North Western Syria). *NOTE: This assessment still needs further scientific and validating research.  


Some Import-Export information to chew on...

✈ The Charles de Gaulle, Roissy airport, north of Paris, is the first customs border of France. 

✈ Some 65 million passengers transit through CdG annually. 

✈ In terms of air cargo, just over 50 million metric tonnes of freight are shipped around the globe annually.  

✈ In 2015 a whopping 1,890,829 of those tonnes passed through CdG making it the number two European airport for freight, after Frankfurt.

✈ Art and antiquities valued above a certain threshold exported or imported from one country to another require export licenses

✈ More than 31,500 scheduled international flights depart Lebanon annually, destined for 54 airports in 41 countries.

✈ While legal instruments in place vary from country to country, cultural goods that reach or exceed specific age or monetary value threshold require an individual licence for export, whether on a permanent or temporary loan basis.

✈ Both national ownership laws and export controls are put in place as a restraint on the free circulation of artworks through the market and are promulgated in response to the sale of objects or dismemberment of ancient monuments and sites simply to satisfy market demand.

✈ Ancient artifacts, taken in violation of national ownership laws are stolen property in market nations, as well as in the country of origin.

✈ This is not the first time that smugglers have intentionally mislabeled an illicit ancient object as a contemporary outdoor accoutrement to circumvent the legal instruments. In a case involving the now imfamous Subhash Kapoor, a shipper was expecting the arrival of a shipment containing seven crates manifested as a single “Marble Garden Table Set.”  The consulate believed these crates contained stolen Indian antiquities. This merchandise was allegedly imported by Kapoor.

Kind of makes you wonder how many antiquities/garden sets there are floating around the world over our heads smuggled in or out under the radar.


Some examples of French customs seizures involving cultural objects (though by all means not an inclusive list)

🏺 In March 2006, more than 6,000 artefacts looted from archaeological sites in Niger and seized by French customs officials in 2004 and 2005 were given back to their country of origin.

🏺 In January 2007 customs seized nine suspicious-looking packages marked "hand­crafted objects" from Bamako,  the capital of Mali.  Inside they found more than 650 ancient objects, including ax heads, bracelets, flint stones and stone rings, excavated from a Neolithic settlement in Ménaka (Eastern Mali)

🏺 In 2008, French customs officials seized crates arriving from Togo stamped "craftwork" which contained artefacts. ICOM approached a specialist to appraise the objects, one of which was revealed through thermoluminescence testing to be a genuine Nok statuette from Nigeria. 

🏺 In January 2013 France returned five ancient terracotta sculptures to Nigeria smuggled out of the country in 2010.

🏺 In 2014 France returned 250 Egyptian antiquities dating back to the Roman dominion over Egypt (circa 30-641 BCE) and the Coptic Christian era were seized from the luggage of travellers arriving in Paris in March and November of 2010.

If these are the launderers, then who are the buyers?  

Buying and selling ancient art requires a prudent purchaser, one willing to research the provenience (country of origin) and provenance (history of ownership) of an object they intend to own and to evaluate the available information in the context of the current legal framework.  

When details of an object's past are omitted, by the seller, by an antiquities dealer or by an auction house, either intentionally or accidentally, and a buyer knowingly turns a blind eye, they are just as complicit in facilitating the illicit market and the destruction of cultural heritage.  In the 21st century churning trafficked antiquities through the legitimate marketplace, buying and selling intentionally mislabeled pretty things while still conveniently clinging to the negligent “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach is inexcusable. 

By Lynda Albertson

April 21, 2016

The Carabinieri TPC Sequester Stash of Archaeological Finds For Sale on the Internet

Italy's Syracuse branch of its specialised art squad, the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, has seized a cache of antiquities including rings, fibulas (brooches) earrings, pottery, oil lamps and more than 100 silver and bronze coins dating to the Greek and Roman period. 
Photo Credit - Carabinieri TPC - Ragusa Division

Tracking cCommerce online collector auctions, the Carabinieri's data researching officers notified authorities in Sicily and a search warrant was executed at the home of a 48 year old restaurant worker in Ragusa.  At the residence, in addition to the illegally excavated antiquities, officers found a small amount of hashish and marijuana, a metal detector and tools used for illegal clandestine excavations. Law enforcement authorities are now trying to determine which archaeological sites in Sicily may have been the likely find spots for the objects.

While it is not illegal to purchase a metal detector in Italy, there are strict rules on where and what you can metal detect.  There are also many historical and protected archaeological areas where metal detecting is forbidden altogether.  These include the antiquities rich zones of Calabria, Lazio, Tuscany, Val D'Aosta and not surprisingly, Sicily.  

It should be noted that Italian Law 1939:1089 on the Custody of Artistic and Historic Objects published in the Official Gazette no. 184 on August 8, 1939 affords protection to all objects of historical or archaeological value, including coins. All objects discovered by excavation or fortuitously are the property of the Italian state.  They also must be reported to the heritage superintendency immediately.  Rewards may be offered by the state but only within a certain limited percentage of the finds' combined worth.  

The destruction of archaeological layers and the removal of objects by Nighthawkers, those who illegally search and remove artefacts using a metal detector, affects everyone.  Reckless treasuring hunting,  destroys our archaeological and historic understanding of a site, which in turn destroys the information and knowledge of our shared heritage, which should be available to all.

By.  Lynda Albertson