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Thursday, October 12, 2017

US Announces Intent to Withdraw from UNESCO

The United States will withdraw from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, (UNESCO), effective December 31, 2018.

Today's announcement comes as no surprise to cultural property watchers. The US Mission to the United Nations said in July that "[t]he United States is currently evaluating the appropriate level of its continued engagement at UNESCO," prompted by the UN cultural agency's decision "to designate the Old City of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as part of Palestinian territory and a World Heritage site despite protests by the United States, Israel, and other countries," according to the US Mission.

Nikki Haley, America's ambassador to the UN, remarked this past summer that UNESCO's vote was "tragic." "It undermines the trust that is needed for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to be successful. And it further discredits an already highly questionable UN agency," she said.

The longstanding tension between the US and UNESCO is described in CHL's 2013 blog post, No Money, No Vote: A Closer Look at the Strained Relationship Between the U.S. and UNESCO. The events it chronicles set the stage for today's notification by the US State Department to UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of its intent to set up an American permanent observer mission after officially withdrawing from the UN agency next year.

"This decision was not taken lightly," the State Department explained in a press statement. The decision "reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO."

Bokova responded with a public announcement "to express profound regret..." She touted her agency's achievements, naming six UNESCO goals that she said are "shared by the American people," including the advancement of literacy and education, the harnessing of technology, the enhancement of scientific cooperation, the promotion of freedom of expression, the empowerment of girls and women, and the bolstering of societies facing instability.

"Despite the withholding of [US] funding, since 2011, we have deepened the partnership between the United States and UNESCO, which has never been so meaningful," Bokova noted. "Together, we have worked to protect humanity’s shared cultural heritage in the face of terrorist attacks and to prevent violent extremism through education and media literacy." The director general proclaimed, "This is a loss to UNESCO. This is a loss to the United Nations family. This is a loss for multilateralism."

Ambassador Haley issued a statement later in the day, agreeing that "[t]he purpose of UNESCO is a good one," but adding, "Unfortunately, its extreme politicization has become a chronic embarrassment." Haley pointed to the UN agency's retention of "Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad on a UNESCO human rights committee even after his murderous crackdown on peaceful protestors."

Today's State Department announcement comes at a time when UNESCO members sharply debate the selection of Bokova's replacement. Bokova has served as director general since 2009. Her term expires this year.

[UPDATE 10/13/17]  UNESCO’s Executive Board on Friday, by a vote of 30 to 28, selected Audrey Azoulay to lead UNESCO. She is a former French culture minister.  Her nomination will be brought before the UN agency's full membership, the General Conference, on November 10.

Photo credit: Eric Ortner/

Text and original photos copyrighted 2010-2017 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, museum risk management, and archaeology. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission without the express written consent of CHL is strictly prohibited.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Penn Vet Working Dog Center Celebrates Five Years of Success

Sunny, a labrador retriever in training,
with his Penn Vet handler during
a luggage search demonstration
Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. At a special celebration held this weekend on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Vet showcased its dogs to an enthusiastic crowd of guests.

Penn Vet’s successful research is a tribute to the energy and vision of Executive Director Dr. Cynthia Otto and her dedicated team of professionals and volunteers. Their important work has mitigated threats to the homeland and saved lives with the help of trained canines like “Hoke,” “Rookie,” “Zoe,” and “Thunder,” dogs carefully taught to sniff out fire accelerants, explosives, narcotics, and disaster victims.

Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research soon hopes to join Penn Vet to discover whether working dogs can spot antiquities traffickers by intercepting smuggled cultural artifacts at ports of entry.

Learn more about the K-9 Artifact Finders program at

Text and original photos copyrighted 2010-2017 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, museum risk management, and archaeology. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission without the express written consent of CHL is strictly prohibited.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Museum Loss Prevention: Apply Rigorous Due Diligence

Museums routinely and successfully protect their archaeological collections from threats of loss posed by theft, fire, natural disaster, and infrastructure failure. But do they effectively shield these collections from legal confiscation?

Tom Mashberg of The New York Times this week reported that the Manhattan District Attorney's Office seized a 2,300 year old vase on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Paestan Red-Figure Bell-Krater was allegedly looted from a grave in Italy.

Meanwhile, cultural property watchers will remember that winter’s day in 2008 when federal agents in California raided the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Bowers Museum, the Pacific Asia Museum, and the Mingei Museum, armed with search warrants to “seize in place” ancient objects. Antiquities originating from Burma, Cambodia, China, and Thailand eventually were confiscated and repatriated, and the police investigation led to felony convictions in 2015 for a pair of art dealers who ran an antiquities import and tax fraud scheme.

Many similar news stories over the years serve as a reminder that rigorous due diligence needs to be applied before acquiring, and even while retaining, archaeological artifacts.

When a museum fails to acquire good title to an object because it is stolen, or when a museum finds itself in possession of illegally imported cultural contraband, then the illicit object may be legally seized. This can happen through a private lawsuit, called a replevin action; a civil forfeiture, usually brought by federal a prosecutor; a search warrant executed by police; or some other legal remedy that strips the artifact from the museum’s possession.

If the artifact is stolen, then the rightful owner—usually a country with a strong cultural property ownership law like Italy, Greece, Egypt, and Turkey—can regain the property. That is because American law generally holds that a rightful owner never loses title to property that is stolen from him. In fact, even an innocent purchaser typically cannot claim legal title to stolen property when the true owner steps forward to reclaim it. What’s more, the true owner is not required to pay compensation to a museum that is forced to surrender the stolen object to the true owner. That means a museum could suffer substantial financial loss. And most insurances won't even cover that kind of loss.

If the artifact is a specifically designated archaeological or ethnological object barred from import by U.S. customs restrictions erected under the Convention on Cultural Property Act, a museum that acquires the object may have to relinquish it to federal authorities for repatriation to the country of origin. Once again, the museum suffers a financial loss that is not covered by insurance.

These risks have been limited by some cultural institutions that have taken noteworthy proactive steps. Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts set the gold standard in 2010 with its addition of a curator for provenance, a full-time professional who carefully checks the collecting histories of objects.

Operational improvements, like this one, have proven beneficial in today’s legal and social environment where law enforcement and the public are more keenly aware that recently surfaced and undocumented ancient objects likely are the fruits of destroyed temples, plundered tombs, and vandalized ceremonial centers, which are sold on an art and antiquities market that lacks transparency.

Law enforcement and legal watchdogs, meanwhile, remain on elevated alert after the FBI's warning that antiquities trafficking may supply financial support to terrorists in the Middle East.

For cultural institutions still lacking solid protective measures that guard against collecting illicit artifacts, they are expected to face acute risk—both legal and reputational—particularly in cases where collected objects come from countries that suffer from, or that have recently experienced, widespread or highly publicized heritage site looting (e.g., Afghanistan, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Italy, Mali, Syria).

Typically what causes a museum to acquire illicit artifacts is a lack of rigorous due diligence. Due diligence is the term used to describe the background investigation that cultural institutions should be employing to discover an artifact’s origin and its collecting history, especially the details of its excavation, ownership, possession, transportation, conservation, sale, and so forth. This inquiry may be referred to as a provenance check. It is a pre-acquisition investigation meant to uncover whether an object is authentic or fake, whether its export and import were compliant with applicable laws, and whether its title can transfer to the museum cleanly. Flawed due diligence may result in a museum acquiring an antiquity or other object that later could be removed from the collection by police, lawyers, or a court order.

To prevent such a loss—and the bad publicity that ultimately follows—a museum first should understand its fiduciary duty of care, which is the legal obligation imposed on trustees of all nonprofit institutions that demands the exercise of reasonable care when managing assets. This duty requires artifact accessions to be done lawfully and in good faith. The duty of care is embraced, in some measure, by museum codes of ethics like those published by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), and the International Council of Museums (ICOM), which outline specific due diligence standards.

These standards, nevertheless, are neither uniform nor sufficiently rigorous in many cases. For example, while ICOM’s due diligence rule properly asks museums to “establish the full history of the item from discovery or production,” AAMD’s diminished rule limits a museum’s background check to “compliance with the export laws of the country of immediate past export to the U.S,” ignoring compliance with the laws of every country of export and import.

There is also disagreement in the museum community about the standard of due diligence review that should be applied. For example, one major museum’s collections policy declares that there must be “clear and convincing evidence” to prove that an object, already in the museum’s collection, had been stolen, looted, or smuggled before the object will be removed (deaccessioned) from the collection. Yet this same scrupulous "clear and convincing" standard is watered-down when the museum wishes to add a new archaeological object to its collection.

The best due diligence, in all cases, is rigorous due diligence. It is the kind of diligence that directs museum personnel to ask pointed and comprehensive questions and to insist on sufficient and credible documentation from dealers, auction houses, and donors. It is the kind of diligence that demands answers about whether an artifact has been stolen, illegally exported, or smuggled before an object is acquired and after an object is acquired. Rigorous due diligence easily satisfies museum trustees' duty of care and serves to prevent the loss of objects from a museum’s collection.

So what rigorous due diligence is actually due? One answer comes from a recommendation presented by collectors in 2009 to the Ancientartifacts Yahoo! group. Titled A Code of Ethics for Collectors of Ancient Artifacts, it offers the following suggestions identified in the quotes below with CHL's commentary below each suggestion:

"Ask the vendor for all relevant paperwork relating to provenance, export etc.”

That means asking for the bills of lading, invoices, customs entry forms, export permits, and all other paperwork that track the object’s movements.

“Take extra care if collecting particular classes of objects which have been subjected to wide-scale recent looting.”

For example, avoid acquiring artifacts that are listed on one of ICOM’s publications known as RedLists, which identify at-risk cultural heritage originating from countries that suffer severely from cultural heritage looting and plunder.

“Verify a vendor’s reputation independently before buying. Assure yourself that they are using due diligence in their trading practices, and do not support those who knowingly sell fakes as authentic or offer items of questionable provenance.”

Learn more about the dealers, auction houses, and donors offering artifacts by getting client references, scanning publicly available court records for criminal or civil claims against them, and reviewing corporate records (available on many secretary of state offices’ web sites) to verify legitimacy.

“Do not dismember any item, or acquire a fragment which you believe to have been separated from a larger object except through natural means.”

For instance, beware of acquiring a single object that would have been paired with another object. You would be suspicious if a salt shaker were sold without its companion pepper shaker, so be suspicious if a single statue that is commonly found a part of a pair is offered for sale.

"Consider the implications of buying an item from an associated assemblage and the impact this could have on study."

Be cautious when considering the purchase of one portion of an entire temple wall or a single cut-out from a complete ancient papyrus roll, for example.

“Liaise, where possible, with the academic and broader communities about your artifacts.”

Have open conversations about the object and its collecting history in order to learn more perhaps about its provenance from experts.

A recommendation not suggested by the Ancientartifacts group, but which is absolutely important, is conducting a visual inspection of the object. Use a black light to spot unusual marks or cover-ups like nail polish, which can be used to remove an identifying registration number from an inventoried museum object. Examine edges to see if they are straight and smooth to help determine whether an object has been cut recently from its original archaeological source as when looters use diamond-tipped steel circular saws to cut decorative slabs from ancient tomb walls.

Effective loss prevention involves the application of this kind of rigorous due diligence. It helps cultural institutions acquire valid legal title to licit cultural objects and protects museum collections from legal seizures, all while instilling public confidence in museum collecting practices that aim to preserve humanity’s precious cultural heritage.

To learn more about this topic, register for IFCPP's annual conference here. It will be held in September on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

Photo credit: Szorstki/

Text and original photos copyrighted by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, and museum risk management. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of any blog post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Watch CPAC Live on July 19, 2017 at 1PM EDT

The Roman Libyan site of Leptis Magna.
The Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) meets today to consider a request to erect American import protections on endangered cultural property from Libya.

The meeting will take place today at 1 p.m.  EDT. Viewers can watch live by clicking here.

The May 30 request asks the United States to impose import restrictions on archaeological and ethnological objects objects dating from prehistoric, Greek, Roman, Islamic, and Ottoman times.

Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property permits such a request, and CPAC makes a recommendation to the president or his designee pursuant to its authority under the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act.

Photo credit: Faruk Seta/

Text and original photos copyrighted 2010-2017 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, museum risk management, and archaeology. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission without the express written consent of CHL is strictly prohibited.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Hobby Lobby Forfeiture: $3 Million is Not a Fine. So What Is It?

The case of United States v. Approximately Four Hundred Fifty (450) Ancient Cuneiform Tablets and Approximately Three Thousand (3,000) Ancient Clay Bullae--the Hobby Lobby cultural artifacts case--involves two parts:

(1) the court forfeiture of 3,450 cuneiform tablets and clay bullae illegally imported into the United States, and specifically named in the caption of the civil case, and

(2) the administrative forfeiture of $3 million in proceeds along with 144 unlawfully imported cylinder seals, which is outlined in the companion settlement agreement filed with the federal district court in Brooklyn, New York.

So how did prosecutors arrive at this $3 million figure, because, as stated in CHL's July 6 blog post, the amount is not a fine or a penalty levied against Hobby Lobby, contrary to what has been widely reported in the media.

Cultural property forfeitures typically involve the seizure and forfeiture of hot cultural objects, not cold cash in lieu of the objects themselves. That is because cultural property seizures usually are civil in rem actions, meaning the lawsuits involve the U.S. v. The Actual Stuff to be Forfeited, rather than criminal in personam actions like U.S. v. John Doe, where fruits and contraband of John Doe's crime may be forfeited to the government after conviction, including any illegal money derived from the proceeds.

Cuneiform tablet seized by U.S. Customs.
While it is easy to understand how 3,594 specific tablets, bullae, and cylinder seals may be civilly forfeitable in the Hobby Lobby case because they are illegally tainted cultural property, it is not easy figure out the mechanism and the source of the forfeitable $3 million proceeds based on the currently available pleadings.

We do know a little bit. Termed "Forfeited Funds" by the Stipulation of Settlement filed with the court by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York and Hobby Lobby, the $3 million represents proceeds derived from illegal conduct and/or is a substitute for illegal cultural property that already has been dissipated. In particular, the agreement says that the money represents forfeitable proceeds under 18 U.S.C. § 981(a)(I)(C) that were generated by one or more violations of 18 U.S.C. § 542 (entry of goods by false statement), 18 U.S.C. § 545 (smuggling), or 19 U.S.C. § 1595a(c)(1)(A) (merchandise introduced into the country in violation of law).

Were some illegally imported artifacts transferred and converted to cash in the amount of $3 million? Were $3 million worth of artifacts purchased but undelivered to Hobby Lobby, as might be implied by the Stipulation? Was there a $3 million financial benefit derived by some party as a result of the illegally imported antiquities? Or was there something else? We simply do not know.

At this juncture, the only cash amounts related to the court case or to any donations made by Hobby Lobby to its supported museum--The Museum of the Bible--are found in the prosecutors' forfeiture complaint and in the the Form 990's filed by the museum. These documents include the following information:
  • Hobby Lobby agreed to purchase 5,500+ artifacts in December 2010 for $1.6 million (cuneiform tablets and bricks, clay bullae, cylinder seals), which a Hobby Lobby consultant thought might be appraised at $11,820,000.
  • The Museum of the Bible legally formed in 2010 and received 501(c)(3) tax-exempt recognition from the IRS in 2011. While the museum's 2010 Form 990EZ shows no receipt of antiquities, Form 990, which covers July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012, reports the museum's possession of "works of art, historical treasured, or other similar assets," declaring that the institution acquired $23,038,000 (reported fair market value) in non-cash "DONATED ARTIFACTS," which was given in one contribution. The source of the contribution is unlisted.
  • The following tax reporting year discloses that the museum received $61,633,000 worth of historical artifacts from a single donation. Again, the source of the contribution is unlisted.
  • The museum's 2013 Form 990 explicitly reveals that Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. donated 526 "biblical artifacts," specifically 496 "scroll items" and 30  "non-scroll items," having a fair market value of $50,294,500. (Putting that amount in perspective, the building and land acquired by The Museum of the Bible in July 2012 cost $50,360,855, according to publicly available tax documents.)
  • From July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014, Hobby Lobby donated 408 artifacts that included 265 scroll and 143 non-scroll objects having a fair market value of $65,368,000.
  • The museum's latest Form 990 covering 2015/2016 reports no artifact donations but lists artifact assets held by the museum in an amount of $201,212,721.
Hopefully, government lawyers will offer an explanation about the source of the $3 million non-fine forfeiture.

[UPDATE>: Tracy Connor of NBC News reported on July 13: "An attorney for the [Hobby Lobby] confirmed to NBC News that the $3 million it will pay the federal government to settle a civil case isn't a fine but a payment to cover unspecified items that were improperly brought to the United States before the 2010 acquisition. Hobby Lobby didn't forfeit those purchases because it doesn't have them any longer."]

Photo credit: Dömötör Gergely / and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of NY.

Text and original photos copyrighted 2010-2017 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, museum risk management, and archaeology. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission without the express written consent of CHL is strictly prohibited.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Cultural Property Forfeiture: Hobby Lobby Could Pay $2000/Day if U.S. Attorney's Agreement Violated

Cuneiform tablet subject to forfeiture.
After a six and a half year probe by federal authority into ancient cultural property imports acquired by Hobby Lobby, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn yesterday filed a forfeiture complaint as part of a settlement agreement with the arts and crafts company. The agreement, filed today in federal district court, confiscates Hobby Lobby's antiquities purchases, compels the Oklahoma-based corporation to forfeit cash proceeds related to the unlawful imports, and mandates the company's personnel to follow ethical collecting guidelines. Failure to comply with the settlement terms could cost Hobby Lobby $2,000 per day.

The forfeiture complaint—docketed in the Eastern District of New York as United States v. Approximately Four Hundred Fifty (450) Ancient Cuneiform Tablets and Approximately Three Thousand (3,000) Ancient Clay Bullae (17-CV-3980)—alleges that shipments of ancient Iraqi artifacts were smuggled through both the international mail facility at New York's JFK International Airport and the FedEx facility located in Memphis, Tennessee. The items were shipped from the United Arab Emirates and Israel and misleadingly described on customs forms as “Tiles (Sample),” “hand made clay tiles (sample),” and “hand made [sic] miniature clay tiles." The complaint goes on to say that the antiquities were significantly undervalued in order to skirt formal customs entry procedures. They also were falsely invoiced and labeled with either a false or no country of origin.

[UPDATE 7/11/17> cultural property expert Dr. Neil Brodie breaks down the shipments in his blog post, Hobby Lobby Forfeits More Than its Reputation].

To gain title to the cultural property specified in the court complaint, which U.S. Customs and Border Protection already seized several years ago, federal prosecutors use 19 U.S.C. § 1595a(c)(1)(A). That's the often applied federal customs law that says:
Merchandise which is introduced or attempted to be introduced into the United States contrary to law shall be treated as follows: The merchandise shall be seized and forfeited if it is stolen, smuggled, or clandestinely imported or introduced.
Prosecutors additionally cite the companion criminal statutes of 18 U.S.C. § 542 and 545 to argue that the merchandise was imported by means of false statements or other criminal means.

While government lawyers allege criminal activity, they have chosen not to pursue a criminal conviction against any wrongdoer. It should be mentioned too that federal prosecutors have deliberately singled out the shipper, not the importer, as the party who reportedly violated Title 18, arguing in their complaint that "the shipper knowingly made false declarations as to [the property's] value, description and country of origin" and "the shipper knowingly made false declarations as to its value and description and, in failing to file formal entry declarations, omitted the required declaration as to country of origin."

The forfeiture complaint, nevertheless, recites broader facts than what is captioned in the court case's title or in the complaint's claim for relief, describing the sale of at least 1,500 cuneiform tablets, 500 cuneiform bricks, 3,000 clay bullae, 13 extra-large cuneiform tablets and 500 stone cylinder seals. The seller pitched these artifacts as “legally acquired" by the father of an Israeli dealer during the 1960's, according to the U.S. Attorney's pleading.

The complaint goes on to note that in October 2010, in-house counsel at Hobby Lobby received an expert's memorandum that explained the federal import restrictions on endangered cultural property from Iraq, the criminal penalties for their import, and an additional warning:
I would regard the acquisition of any artifact likely from Iraq ... as carrying considerable risk. An estimated 200-500,000 objects have been looted from archaeological sites in Iraq since the early 1990s; particularly popular on the market and likely to have been looted are cylinder seals, cuneiform tablets . . . . Any object brought into the US and with Iraq declared as country of origin has a high chance of being detained by US Customs. If such an object has been brought into the US in the past few years and was not stopped by US Customs, then you need to examine the import documents to see if the country of origin was properly declared; an improper declaration of country of origin can also lead to seizure and forfeiture of the object.
Prosecutors explain that the purchase of the Iraqi antiquities nevertheless went forward in the winter of 2010. Prior to that, in July 2010, Hobby Lobby’s president and a consultant traveled to the UAE in to view many of the artifacts. The consultant thought the total collection might be appraised at $11,820,000, according to the complaint. Hobby Lobby made a deal for $1.6 million and wired payment to seven bank accounts held in the names of people other than the seller, according to the court document.

Government lawyers charge that Hobby Lobby circumvented its company protocols to obtain the objects, writing:
Commencing on or about November 9, 2010, a Hobby Lobby employee tasked with receiving and cataloguing artifacts purchased for the Collection (the “Curator”) began working with Hobby Lobby’s International Department and the Executive Assistant [to the President] to coordinate the importation of the Artifacts. The International Department advised the Curator and Executive Assistant that the Artifacts should be imported using the Customs Broker. However, after the Customs Broker reported that the Artifacts could be detained by CBP, the Curator and Executive Assistant decided to bypass the International Department and Customs Broker and have Israeli Dealers #1 and #2 handle the shipping arrangements for the Order.
Hobby Lobby began to collect cultural property around 2009. Because its arts and crafts stores do not sell ancient cuneiform tablets or bullae, the company likely imported the antiquities so that they could donate them to the company-supported museum, The Museum of the Bible. The museum incorporated as a nonprofit under Oklahoma law on September 13, 2010 and is scheduled to open its doors in Washington, DC in a few months.

To conclude its case with the U.S. Attorney's office, Hobby Lobby agreed to terms contained in a stipulation of settlement filed with the court. The agreement's terms do not bind The Museum of the Bible. According to the settlement, Hobby Lobby agrees to
  • not challenge the government's forfeiture action;
  • assist with the delivery of the artifacts to the government;
  • surrender 144 cylinder seals as forfeited assets for the same legal reasons just explained;
  • not to assert any legal interest in any cultural property purchased, but not already acquired by Hobby Lobby in the $1.6 million deal, and to notify the U.S. Attorney if the company learns where the artifacts may be;
  • have the personnel listed in the company's new Antiquities Policy (unavailable in current court records) receive training within six months, and at least once a year thereafter, on customs regulations, provenance, and due diligence with regard to the purchase and import of cultural property;
  • retain customs counsel to offer or supervise this training and give advice regarding modifications of the Antiquities Policy and any cultural property acquisitions;
  • secure the services of a qualified customs broker; and
  • provide regular and detailed reports to the U.S. Attorney over eighteen months that describe in detail the company's cultural property imports, including the invoice price, vendor, Harmonized Tariff Schedule code, mode of transport, etc.
Failure to comply with these conditions could result in a fine costing the company $2,000 each day.

Assistant United States Attorneys Karin Orenstein and Ameet B. Kabrawala represent the government. Hobby Lobby is represented by litigator Barry Berke of the New York firm of Kramer Levin and cultural property lawyer Michael McCullough of Pearlstein, McCullough & Lederman in New York.

View a copy of the forfeiture complaint and the agreement below

Photo credit: U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York

Text and original photos copyrighted 2010-2017 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, museum risk management, and archaeology. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission without the express written consent of CHL is strictly prohibited.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

[VIDEO] Yes, Art and Antiquities Sellers Should Be Subject to Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Terrorist Financing Laws

Last week the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance held a hearing titled, “The Exploitation of Cultural Property: Examining Illicit Activity in the Antiquities and Art Trade.” View the video below.

In light of the subcommittee's  important discussion, Congress should revisit the question: Shouldn't Art and Antiquities Sellers Be Subject to Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Terrorist Financing Laws? The answer, of course, is yes.

Testifying at the June 23, 2017 hearing were
  • Dr. Brian Daniels, Research Associate at the Smithsonian Institution and Director of Research and Programs at Penn Cultural Heritage Center.
  • Alyson Grunder, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State.
  • Raymond Villanueva, Assistant Director for International Operations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations.
Forward the video to 11:03, which marks the start of the hearing.

Text and original photos copyrighted 2010-2017 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, museum risk management, and archaeology. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission without the express written consent of CHL is strictly prohibited.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Cultural Heritage MoU with Peru Extended

The United States government last week extended import restrictions safeguarding ancient archaeological and ethnological materials originating from Peru. The restrictions, which took effect June 9, last for five years and cover cultural heritage objects “in jeopardy from pillage.”

The archaeological site of Moray, an Inca ruin located in Peru.
Particular cultural artifacts dating from 12,000 B.C. through 1532 A.D. are covered under the new federal rules. The designated list encompasses Pre-Columbian textiles such as Chimu´ feather cloth panels, Nazca sashes, and Inca slings; Pre-Columbian metal objects like necklaces and penachos, metal feathers made of gold, silver, or copper used to decorate crowns; Pre-Columbian lithics such as stone bowls and cups; Pre-Columbian human remains like mummies; ethnological objects like Catholic liturgical items such as chalices and crucifixes; and Colonial manuscripts and documents like wills and books—a new category appearing on the designated list. The entire designated list can be found here.

Import controls protecting Peruvian heritage objects, enacted under authority of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA),  have remained in place for 27 years. The CPIA is the federal law that implements the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

The U.S. first promulgated emergency import restrictions on May 7, 1990 to conserve at-risk archaeological material from Peru’s Sipan Archaeological Region. Later, in 1997, the U.S. and Peru entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that set up import restrictions on objects from Pre-Hispanic cultures and on ethnological items from the Colonial period. The U.S. extended this bilateral agreement with Peru in 2002, 2007, and 2012.

Now that the MoU has been renewed for another five years, cultural property lawyers and importers must take note, keeping in mind the 1972 law that is still applicable to Peruvian artifacts, the Importation of Pre-Columbian Monumental or Architectural Sculpture or Murals Act.

Photo credit: getye1/

Text and original photos copyrighted 2010-2017 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, museum risk management, and archaeology. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission without the express written consent of CHL is strictly prohibited.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

National Preservation Law Conference

Attorneys and other interested professionals should consider attending the National Preservation Law Conference in Washington, DC on June 13 for a focused look at preservation law, including the most recent debates and developments.

Recognized legal experts will speak about topics that include preservation at the federal level, preserving America’s cities, and protecting international cultural heritage.

The program is sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in partnership with my alma mater, Georgetown University Law Center. Here are the details.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017
8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Lunch included and cocktail reception to follow program.
Georgetown University Law Center
600 New Jersey Avenue NW
Washington, D.C.

Register here. Online registration closes June 9. Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits will be available.

Questions? Email

Text and original photos copyrighted 2010-2017 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, museum risk management, and archaeology. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission without the express written consent of CHL is strictly prohibited.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Exploring a New Way to Find Smuggled Artifacts: K-9 Artifact Finders

Imagine a new way to catch antiquities traffickers using specially trained working dogs.

CHL suggested the idea in a blog post last year. Now Red Arch is on its way toward making that idea into a reality.

The K-9 Artifact Finders program is spearheaded by Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Researcha 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose purpose is to apply first-class research and professional judgment to cultural heritage law and policy problems.

The research project's goal is to explore how dogs can be trained to find cultural artifacts smuggled in shipping containers, cargo crates, mailed packages, luggage, and more.

Red Arch Research will partner with the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the Penn Museum, relying on their years of experience and know-how.

To get the project going, Red Arch has launched a GoFundMe page, enlisting support for this important and innovative research.

Finding common target scents linked to looted antiquities--which working dogs would be able to sniff out--would help build a new tool for customs officers that could be deployed to nab cultural heritage traffickers at airports, cargo facilities, and other ports of entry.

The need for detector dogs to combat antiquities trafficking is more urgent than ever. The U.N. Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2347 in March, supported by the United States, explaining how terrorist groups are generating income from "the looting and smuggling of cultural property from archaeological sites, museums, libraries, archives, and other sites," and that these crimes against culture are "being used to support their recruitment efforts and to strengthen their operational capability to organize and carry out terrorist attacks ….”

The K-9 Artifact Finders project can help combat this top-priority problem.

The K-9 Artifact Finders project grew out of Red Arch's investigation into imports into the United States of cultural objects from the Middle East and North Africa. Published by CHL and presented at the Culture Under Threat conference in Cairo, the research sparked troubling questions.

Why did the declared value of U.S. imports of "antiques" from Syria climb 133% between 2012 and 2013 during a time of war?

Why did the declared value of U.S. imports of "antiques" from Iraq skyrocket 1302% between 2009 and 2013, from $322,564 to $4,523,126, during a period of violent unrest?

Were these "antiques" actually looted and smuggled archaeological artifacts?

Red Arch wanted answers, but it was clear that customs officers needed to spot smuggled archaeological objects better. So the nonprofit research center asked whether working dogs could be trained to find smuggled artifacts, and the K-9 Artifact Finders program was developed in order to find the answer.

The kind of canine training that will be undertaken is mostly unprecedented. To prevent potential cross contamination of odors, the primary study, designed by Penn Vet, will focus on the Fertile Crescent region in modern-day Iraq. This area is historically rich, making it a prime target for cultural heritage looters.

Phase I of the project will have four dogs recruited from the Penn Vet Working Dog Center's training program. Naturally, the dogs will be treated humanely and with care. There will be initial scent imprinting of up to three types of freshly excavated artifacts—lawfully excavated, properly documented, and legally imported with the help of archaeologists, including from the Penn Museum.

Once imprinted, the dogs will learn odor discrimination. The tests will be double-blind, meaning that the researcher, data collector, and trainer will not know the treatment of each specific sample presented to the dog.

If the results prove successful, we will know that working dogs can partner with authorities to help stop antiquities smuggling. That would mark a big step forward in the fight against cultural heritage trafficking.

Learn more at

Those who helped design the K-9 Artifact Finders program include the Board of Directors of Red Arch and the following experts:

Dr. Michael Danti, Principal Investigator and Academic Director of ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives and a Penn Museum Consulting Scholar.

Domenic DiGiovanni, Customs and Border Protection Officer (Ret.) at U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Dr. David "Lou" Ferland, Executive Director of The United States Police Canine Association and retired police chief.

Peter Herdrich, Chief Executive Officer at Cultural Capital Group, LLC.

Dr. Cynthia M. Otto, Executive Director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center.
Text and original photos copyrighted 2010-2017 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, museum risk management, and archaeology. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission without the express written consent of CHL is strictly prohibited.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

National Antiquities Take-Back Day

Today is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Each year the Drug Enforcement Administration coordinates with federal, state, county, and local police and police to collect millions of pounds of unused medications stored in household medicine cabinets, reducing the availability of addictive drugs.

Police departments and prosecutors' offices collect the drugs from individuals without asking questions, removing the fear of any potential law enforcement consequence.

In the same way, a National Antiquities Take-Back Day would allow collectors and their family members to return ancient statues, pots, coins, and other archaeological objects known to have been acquired illicitly or believed to have suspicious histories.

Such an event could be sponsored by Homeland Security's Cultural Property, Art, and Antiquities Program and the FBI Art Crime Team, who would supervise collecting the objects without no questions asked and who would repatriate the artifacts to their lawful owners.

Photo credit: pipp/

Text and original photos copyrighted by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, and museum risk management. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of any blog post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a service of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Federal Court Leaves CPIA Coin Import Regs Untouched

The District Court of Maryland once again has refused the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild's (ACCG) invitation to strike down or weaken import restrictions that protect endangered ancient coins. The court instead ordered the forfeiture of 15 ancient coins seized from the ACCG. But in a partial victory for the Guild, the court directed authorities to turn over seven coins to the advocacy group.

A sample of the seven Cypriot coins, three knife-shaped Chinese coins, and dozen other
disc-shaped Chinese coins in the Baltimore test case. On the top row (l-r)
are Chinese coins #1 (c.400 BC), #2 (c.300 BC), #3 (C.300 BC), #12, and #13.
The bottom row (l-r) displays coins #16, #17 and the envelope labeled Cyprus
Ptolemaeus Head of Zeus, and coin #19. The Maryland District Court says
that attorneys for the ACCG and the government "acknowledge an unexplained
discrepancy between the number of coins listed in the dealer’s invoice, 23,
and the number currently in CBP’s possession, 22."
The federal court's March 31 decision in the case of U.S. v. Three Knife-Shaped Coins et al. is the latest outcome in the ACCG's eight-year long legal struggle to attack American import restrictions placed on ancient coins in danger of cultural heritage looting and trafficking.

The Guild's test case began in April 2009 when it shipped 23 ancient Cypriot and Chinese coins to Baltimore. Spink, a dealer in London, supplied the coins, and the Guild had the archaeological material flown aboard a British Airways passenger flight to the United States. “According to the Spink invoice, each coin was minted in Cyprus or China, had '[n]o recorded provenance,' and had a '[f]ind spot' that was 'unknown,'" noted the district court.

Customs officers detained the artifacts because their entry violated CPIA import regulations authorized by the bilateral agreements (also called Memoranda of Understanding) in force between the United States and the nations of Cyprus and China.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of the Treasury classified certain "Coins of Cypriot Types" as protected cultural property subject to Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) import controls on July 13, 2007, concluding that the "[c]oins constitute an inseparable part of the archaeological record of the island, and, like other archaeological objects, they are vulnerable to pillage and illicit export."

Meanwhile, on January 16, 2009, authorities designated certain bronze Chinese coins--among other bronze archaeological material such as vessels, sculpture, musical instruments, and weapons--as subject to CPIA import restrictions after the Department of State concluded on May 13, 2008 that "[t]the cultural patrimony of China is in jeopardy from the pillage of irreplaceable archaeological materials representing China's cultural heritage from the Paleolithic Period (c. 75,000 B.C.) through the end of the Tang Period (A.D. 907) ... (19 U.S.C. 2602(a)(1)(A))."

Following Customs' detention of the ACCG's shipment, the Guild announced on its web site that it "now plans to use this detention as a vehicle to strike down the unprecedented regulations banning importation of whole classes of ancient coins."

The ACCG first sought a declaratory judgment when the government delayed starting legal proceedings, which gave birth to Ancient Coin Collectors Guild v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection; U.S. Department of State; Assistant Secretary of State, Educational and Cultural Affairs, a case that ultimately sided with the government and ruled against the ACCG.

Both the District Court of Maryland and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in that case rejected the ACCG's claims (1) that import restrictions on Cypriot and Chinese ancient coins were the product of ultra vires (extralegal) acts, (2) that the government violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), or that (3) the government transgressed the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The courts found that federal agencies did not need to demonstrate, as the ACCG contended, that all coins of the types listed for restricted import were 'first discovered within'' their countries of origin. The case concluded after four years with the U.S. Supreme Court declining to hear the matter.

Federal prosecutors then sought title to the seized ancient coins. The U.S. Attorneys Office for the District of Maryland in April 2013 filed the civil forfeiture case of U.S. v. Three Knife-Shaped Coins et al. pursuant to 19 U.S.C. § 2609 of the CPIA, contending that the ACCG imported archaeological material designated in CBP Regulation 19 C.F.R. § 12.104g in violation of 19 U.S.C. § 2606 and 19 C.F.R. § 12.104a(b) and that that the Guild failed to produce any documentation to CBP that demonstrated the legitimacy of the import as demanded by 19 U.S.C. § 2606(b). The ACCG soon filed as a claimant.

The ACCG continued to challenge to validity of CPIA import controls throughout the forfeiture case, causing the district court, in June 2014, to repeat that there could be no "further challenge to the validity of the regulations.”

A little over two weeks ago, District Judge Catherine Blake ruled on the ACCG’s motion for summary judgment and the government’s cross-motion for summary judgment, reinforcing the legality of CPIA restrictions on specifically identified types of ancient coins. Citing the words of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Blake wrote:
The appellate court addressed the ACCG's ... complaint "that [the Department of] State and CBP acted ultra vires by placing import restrictions on all coins of certain types without demonstrating that all coins of those types were 'first discovered within' China or Cyprus." The [Circuit] court disagreed by explaining that "State and CBP are under no obligation to list restricted items with more specificity than the statute commands, and they are certainly not required to impose restrictions on a coin-by-coin basis. Such a requirement would make the statutory scheme utterly unworkable in practice
Judge Blake rejected the ACCG’s persistent “first discovered within" argument, pointedly expressing that the argument “misses the mark."

The "first discovered" argument imagines that federal attorneys, as part of their prima facie case to forfeit regulated imports, must show that ancient coins were “first discovered within” or were “subject to the export control of" a State Party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Put another way, the ACCG's argument posits that authorities may not seek to forfeit archaeological imports unless they first establish (1) that they are the type of cultural artifacts appearing on the designated lists of archaeological materials that are subject to import restrictions under the CPIA, which implements the 1970 UNESCO Convention in the United States; (2) that the artifacts were first discovered within and subject to the export control of the State Party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention; and (3) that the artifacts were removed unlawfully from the State Party only after the U.S. put the CPIA import restrictions in place.

If successful, the "first discovered" argument would have raised the legal bar for federal authorities to detain and forfeit unlawfully imported cultural property. That is because it is almost impossible to demonstrate the location where a looter first clandestinely dug up an ancient coin. The ACCG has argued instead that an ancient coin's find spot is difficult to determine because ancient coins circulated from one region to another, which is a claim that has been challenged.

Regardless of the merits of either argument, the Maryland district court rejected the ACCG's legal theory on statutory grounds, explaining in depth:
The Guild’s argument appears to conflate two terms defined in the CPIA: “archaeological . . . material of the State Party” ... and “designated archaeological . . . material” .... “Archaeological material of the State Party” is “any object of archaeological interest . . . which was first discovered within, and is subject to export control by, the State Party.” 19 U.S.C. § 2601(2). “Designated archaeological material” is “any archaeological . . . material of the State Party” which is “covered by an agreement under this chapter” and “listed by regulation under section 2604.” Id. § 2601(7). Only “designated” material is subject to import restrictions under § 2606 [of the CPIA] and potentially “subject to seizure and forfeiture” under § 2609 [of the CPIA]. Id. §§ 2606(a), 2609(a). 
The Guild’s source for the “first discovered within” and “subject to export control by” requirements is the reference to “archaeological material of the State Party” in § 2604 [of the CPIA], which provides that “the [US] Secretary [of the Treasury] . . . shall by regulation promulgate (and when appropriate shall revise) a list of the archaeological or ethnological material of the State Party covered by the agreement.” Id. § 2604. Rather than supporting the Guild’s arguments, however, this provision illustrates the distinction between “archaeological material of the State Party” and “designated archaeological material.” “Archaeological material of the State Party” includes all material that may be restricted by [US Customs and Border Protection] pursuant to an applicable agreement, whereas “designated archaeological material” is the subset that has been restricted through the process of creating or amending a designated list. See id. §§ 2601, 2604. By asserting that the government must prove in every forfeiture action that “designated archaeological material” does, in fact, constitute “archaeological material of the State Party,” the Guild seeks to impose a burden on the government that the CPIA does not: the requirement to prove, as part of its initial showing, that the decisions incorporated into its underlying regulations are sound. … Further, nothing in the statute or legislative history supports the Guild’s proposal to substitute one defined term, “archaeological material of the State Party,” for another, “designated archaeological material,” in §§ 2606 and 2609. The court declines the Guild’s invitation to rewrite the statute in this way.
Besides seeking to dismantle the CPIA's cultural property protections over ancient coins, the ACCG also pursued the more practical goal of reclaiming its imported Cypriot and Chinese coins from federal custody. Both sides scored a victory on this issue.

It was the government's burden to show "that the [detained] property has been 'listed in accordance with section 2604'" of the CPIA. "If so, 'the burden of proof . . . shifts to [the Guild] to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the property is not subject to forfeiture, or to establish an applicable affirmative defense.'" Applying this analysis, Judge Blake assigned title of all the Cypriot coins and some of the Chinese coins to the United States, and gave the Guild seven Chinese coins. 

Judge Blake explained the law of the case this way. Once the government establishes its burden to prove that detained coins are among the types listed on the CPIA's § 2604 designated list, then the claimant bears the burden to show that the coins are importable. The burden "'shifts to [the claimant] to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the property is not subject to forfeiture, or to establish an applicable affirmative defense.' (Quoting U.S. v. Eighteenth Century Peruvian Oil, 597 F. Supp. 2d 618, 623 (E.D. Va. 2009))," meaning that the ACCG had to produce documentation that the coins were, as the earlier Fourth Circuit opinion declared, "(1) lawfully exported from its respective state while CPIA restrictions were in effect; (2) exported from its respective state more than ten years before it arrived in the United States; or (3) exported from its respective state before CPIA restrictions went into effect." The Guild failed to produce any documentation.

To satisfy its burden, the Guild wanted the court to accept expert witness testimony instead. While the court acknowledged that there was "the possibility … that the Guild could rely on expert testimony to prove that ‘these specific coins were exported from their respective States before CPIA restrictions went into effect," the ACCG failed to supply sufficient information about the specific Cypriot or Chinese coins at issue in the case.

The Guild's legal counsel, Attorney Peter Tompa, told the Maryland court in a letter dated May 27, 2009 that "[t]he Guild has admitted that it cannot provide the documentation ..." for any of the coins (labeled for clarity's sake in sequential numbers from 1 through 22). So the ACCG supplied alternative evidence in the form of expert testimony from Douglas Mudd, a numismatic expert and curator of the American Numismatic Association museum, and from Michael McCullough, a noted art and cultural property attorney based in New York.

The district court commented that 'the Guild offers Mudd’s testimony to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the coins were “exported from [their] respective state before CPIA restrictions went into effect.' It offers McCullough’s testimony to prove, as a matter of law, that the Cypriot coins were 'lawfully exported from [their] respective state while CPIA restrictions were in effect,' and to raise an issue of material fact as to whether the Chinese coins were 'lawfully exported from [their] respective state while CPIA restrictions were in effect.'"

Federal prosecutors objected to the consideration of the ACCG's experts, pointing out that CPIA § 2606 does not authorize the evaluation of scholarly evidence, only permitting proof by way of "a certification or other documentation which certifies that such exportation was not in violation of the laws of the State Party." The ACCG countered that the broader federal customs statute, of which the CPIA is only a single chapter, in fact did allow for the use of learned evidence in forfeiture cases, citing 19 U.S.C. § 1615.

The court declined to resolve the dispute, leaving the evidentiary question open, because Judge Blake concluded that it did not matter. "If claimants in CPIA forfeiture actions are limited to the forms of documentation specified in § 2606, the Guild—which has conceded that it cannot provide such documentation—has failed to satisfy its burden to rebut the government’s prima facie case," wrote the judge. "If, on the other hand, § 1615 permits courts to consider scholarly evidence, the court still must look to the substantive law to determine whether the proffered expert testimony establishes the Guild’s entitlement to summary judgment or raises a disputed issue of material fact. Neither the Mudd nor McCullough testimony supports the Guild’s claims."

The court added that “even if 19 U.S.C. § 1615 provides the applicable evidentiary standard and authorizes the Guild to rely on scholarly evidence, that scholarly evidence must be particularized to the coins at issue... .The Mudd testimony and McCullough testimony regarding the Chinese coins are insufficiently particularized, and the McCullough testimony regarding both the Cypriot and Chinese coins fails as a matter of law. The Guild has provided no other evidence or argument that “establish[es], by a preponderance of the evidence, that the property is not subject to forfeiture, or . . . establish[es] an applicable affirmative defense.” See Peruvian Oil, 597 F. Supp. 2d at 623. Accordingly, the government is entitled to summary judgment as to coins 1-6, 12-13, and 16-22. See id.”

Still, the district court did suggest that an expert could have been used by the government to satisfy its burden that the Chinese coins ultimately returned to the ACCG were the kinds subject to CPIA import restrictions.

When the court reviewed whether the imported coins properly fell under the § 2604 CPIA restrictions lists, it found that government lawyers relied on an invoice from Spink, descriptions and photos of the coins that the litigants produced, and admissions made by the ACCG. And so, Judge Blake declared, “[r]egarding coins 1-6, 12-13, and 16-22, the court finds that the government has satisfied its initial burden to show that the coins are of restricted types. Indeed, the Guild admitted in response to the government’s request for admissions that coins 1-6 and 12-13 are of types that appear on the designated list for coins from China and that coins 16-22 are of types that appear on the designated list for coins of Cypriot type.”

But Judge Blake pointedly observed that the ACCG “did not concede ... that ... coins [numbered 7-11 and 14-15] are of types that appear on the designated list for China. Rather, it stated that it was 'unable to admit or deny whether [the coins] are of types that appear on the Chinese designated list' because it 'ha[d] no working knowledge of the Chinese language' [according to representations made by Attorney Tompa]. The court agrees that the relevant documents, including the Spink invoice, are insufficient to establish that coins 7-11 and 14-15 are of types that appear on the Chinese designated list."

Judge Blake concluded that "[b]ecause the government has not produced a Chinese language expert or provided any other evidence showing that the coins are of restricted types, the court finds that the government has failed to satisfy its initial burden regarding coins 7-11 and 14-15." As a result, the ACCG notched its first win in its test case.

The district court criticized federal attorneys for trying to place the government's initial burden on the ACCG, emphasizing that the “initial burden lies with the government to show that the coins have been 'listed . . . in accordance with section 2604,' not with the claimant to prove that they have not. 19 U.S.C. § 2610. As the government has provided no evidence to establish that the coins are of types that appear on the designated list, there was no 'initial showing' for the Guild to rebut.”

The court, meanwhile, struck down the ACCG's Fifth Amendment due process claims, which alleged that the judiciary changed the burden of proof standard set by lawmakers and that CPIA import regulations did not give adequate fair notice of what was prohibited:
First, as explained above, the burden-shifting framework in CPIA forfeiture actions is governed by a combination of generally applicable laws and provisions of the CPIA. Reading 19 U.S.C. § 1615 and 19 U.S.C. § 2610 together, Congress placed the initial burden on the government and the burden of rebuttal on the claimant. In forfeiture actions involving material subject to § 2606, the government must establish “that the material has been listed . . . in accordance with section 2604.” 19 U.S.C. § 2610. The burden then transfers to the claimant to rebut the government’s prima facie case. Peruvian Oil, 597 F. Supp. 2d at 622-23 (citing 19 U.S.C. § 1615). Because this analysis gives effect to, rather than altering, the burden-shifting framework created by Congress, the Guild has not raised a valid due process claim. 
Second, the Guild argues that the regulations fail to provide it with “fair notice” of what is prohibited. In a CPIA forfeiture action, the relevant regulations are the designated lists. See 19 U.S.C. §§ 2606, 2609. The Fourth Circuit previously concluded that the designated lists satisfy 19 U.S.C. § 2604’s “fair notice” requirement, holding that “CBP has listed the Chinese and Cypriot coins by type, in accordance with 19 U.S.C. § 2604.” Ancient Coin Collectors Guild, 698 F.3d at 183; see 19 U.S.C. § 2604 (requiring that the designated lists “be sufficiently specific and precise to insure that . . . fair notice is given to importers and other persons as to what material is subject to such restrictions”). The Guild does not appear to argue that the alleged due process violations arise from a lack of specificity or precision in the designated lists. Rather, the Guild grounds its “fair notice” claim in the premise that 19 C.F.R. § 12.104 conflicts with the “first discovered within” and “subject to export control by” requirements of the CPIA. As discussed above, however, the provisions of the CPIA that govern this action—including §§ 2606, 2609, and 2610—relate to whether a given type of material has been added to a designated list, not whether it should have been. Thus, for purposes of this forfeiture action, it does not appear that a conflict involving the “first discovered within” and “subject to export control by” requirements would deprive the Guild of fair notice, so long as the designated lists included sufficiently specific and precise descriptions of the types of items subject to forfeiture. Further, to the extent that the Guild seeks to relitigate its challenge to the validity of the regulations in the form of a due process claim, that argument is inappropriate here.
The court's Memorandum Opinion may be accessed here.

Text and original photos copyrighted by Cultural Heritage Lawyer, a blog commenting on matters of cultural property law, art law, cultural heritage policy, antiquities trafficking, and museum risk management. Blog url: Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of any blog post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a service of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.