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Displaying items by tag: Smuggling

A Greek police officer was among nine people arrested for the suspected smuggling of ancient artefacts, including a statue valued at about one million euros, police said Thursday, AFP reported.

The 49-year-old officer was employed by the department in charge of the protection of the country's antiquities.

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Qiang Wang aka Jeffrey Wang pleaded guilty to smuggling artifacts made from rhinoceros horns from the United States to China. Wang, a 34-year-old antiques dealer based in New York City, was arrested in February 2013 as part of Operation Crash, a nationwide, multiagency crackdown on the illegal rhinoceros trade.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara says Wang pleaded guilty to wildlife smuggling conspiracy on Wednesday, August 7, 2013 in New York. Bharara added that Wang used fake U.S. Customs documents to smuggle packages containing libation cups carved from rhinoceros horns into Hong Kong and China. Wang will be sentenced on October 25, 2013 and could spend up to five years in prison.

Over 90% of the wild rhinoceros population has been slaughtered illegally since the 1970s, mainly because of the price their horns can bring. U.S. and international laws currently protect endangered rhinos.

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Of the millions of tons of stuff that comes through Kennedy International Airport in travelers’ suitcases each year, some of it is not supposed to be there.

Like the tusks of hundreds of threatened African elephants.

A Philadelphia art and antiquities dealer, Victor Gordon, was arraigned on smuggling charges in federal court in Brooklyn on Tuesday after, the authorities said, they seized about a ton of carved ivory that he had had a confederate bring into Kennedy in his luggage between 2006 and 2009.

The seizure is one of the largest American seizures of elephant ivory on record, the United States attorney’s office said.

Mr. Gordon, 68, had his agent purchase raw ivory and get it carved and then stained or dyed so that it appeared old and therefore not subject to endangered species law, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said. He then sold the carved tusks through his shop in Philadelphia, Victor Gordon Enterprises, they said.

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A criminal indictment concerning alleged smuggling of Egyptian antiquities and money laundering, unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, could reverberate through the U.S. museum and collecting communities.

Egyptian art collector Joseph A. Lewis II of Chesterfield County, VA, from whose residence objects were seized on Wednesday, was one of four defendants charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District, with "conspiring to smuggle Egyptian antiquities into the United States and conspiring to launder money in furtherance of smuggling," according to the U.S. Attorney's press release. The alleged crimes occurred in 2008 and 2009.

The other defendants are antiquities dealers Mousa Khouli, Salem Alshdaifat and Ayman Ramadan.

"This is a ground breaking case for Homeland Security Investigations," according to James Hayes Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York. "It is the first time an alleged cultural property network has been dismantled within the United States."

A glowing 2008 profile of Lewis, titled "You Don't Know Joe," discusses the skin-care magnate's museum connections:

He and his wife, Sofi, collect Egyptian antiquities, particularly mummy cases, coffin boards, and afterlife statuary like scarabs. (They've given or loaned several pieces to Atlanta's Michael C. Carlos Museum and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.)

I sent queries (more than two hours ago) to both museums. If I learn more, you'll learn more.

The U.S. Attorney's above-linked press release provides these details about case:

As alleged in the indictment, from October 2008 through November 2009, Lewis purchased a Greco-Roman style Egyptian sarcophagus, a nesting set of three Egyptian sarcophagi, a set of Egyptian funerary boats and Egyptian limestone figures from Khouli, who earlier acquired those items from Alshdaifat and Ramadan.

Each of these antiquities was exported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and smuggled into the United States using a variety of illegal methods intended to avoid detection and scrutiny by U.S. Customs & Border Protection ("Customs"). Specifically, the defendants allegedly made false declarations to Customs concerning the country of origin and value of the antiquities, and provided misleading descriptions of the contents on shipping labels and customs paperwork, such as "antiques," "wood panels" and "wooden painted box."

Most of the smuggled antiquities have been recovered by law enforcement. The innermost sarcophagus of the nesting set was seized during a search of Khouli's residence in September 2009. The middle sarcophagus and most of the outer sarcophagus were seized in November 2009, after they arrived via sea cargo at the Port of Newark, New Jersey.

The Greco-Roman sarcophagus, funerary boats and limestone figures were seized during a search of Lewis's residence on July 13, 2011 [emphasis added]. A civil complaint seeking forfeiture of Egyptian sarcophagi, Iraqi artifacts, cash and other items seized in connection with the government's investigation was also unsealed this morning in Brooklyn federal court.

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