Why is Lord Elgin an abomination to the Greeks?

by Effrosyni Moschoudi

To the Greeks, the name Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, is an abomination, the likes perhaps, of only Lucifer himself. Lord Elgin, as he is more famously known, is notorious in my country for his enormous blundering appetite that was coupled by an equally enormous lack of regard for the Parthenon treasures.

Having acquired a paper of questionable validity (i.e. a mere letter signed by a pasha as opposed to a firman signed by a sultan – the only document that could have authorized him properly within the Othoman Empire), he didn’t hesitate to remove from the Parthenon far more than anyone could have ever imagined possible. Furthermore, he caused irreversible damage to the sculptures that were taken off the friezes. By instructing the workers to remove the posterior side from these treasures (obviously, he thought only the frontal side was of any value!), he thus managed to rid his cargo of unnecessary (!) weight and to cut down on logistic costs.

Elgin shipped the Parthenon Marbles to Britain divided among many different ships, whatever he could arrange with the odd passing ship of the British Navy and each time, he was allowed a very small amount of treasures on board. However, he managed once to commission his own boat, the legendary ‘Mentor’, in 1802. Thrilled to have no weight restrictions this time, Elgin greedily loaded that ship so much that it sank just off the shore on the island of Kythira. When that happened, he contacted the local British consulate, and in order to seek assistance for the retrieval of the treasures, he stated in his letter the infamous lie “…she had on board a quantity of boxes with stones of no value of themselves; but of great consequence for me to secure…”

Do read the full blog at: Why is Lord Elgin an abomination to the Greeks? | Effrosyni’s Blog

October 1st, 2015

Posted In: blogwereld, looting and illegal art traffickers, Parthenon Marbles, Parthenon Marbles (DO NOT CALL THE ELGIN MARBLES!), Ton Cremers

Why is Lord Elgin an abomination to the Greeks?

by Effrosyni Moschoudi

To the Greeks, the name Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, is an abomination, the likes perhaps, of only Lucifer himself. Lord Elgin, as he is more famously known, is notorious in my country for his enormous blundering appetite that was coupled by an equally enormous lack of regard for the Parthenon treasures.

Having acquired a paper of questionable validity (i.e. a mere letter signed by a pasha as opposed to a firman signed by a sultan – the only document that could have authorized him properly within the Othoman Empire), he didn’t hesitate to remove from the Parthenon far more than anyone could have ever imagined possible. Furthermore, he caused irreversible damage to the sculptures that were taken off the friezes. By instructing the workers to remove the posterior side from these treasures (obviously, he thought only the frontal side was of any value!), he thus managed to rid his cargo of unnecessary (!) weight and to cut down on logistic costs.

Elgin shipped the Parthenon Marbles to Britain divided among many different ships, whatever he could arrange with the odd passing ship of the British Navy and each time, he was allowed a very small amount of treasures on board. However, he managed once to commission his own boat, the legendary ‘Mentor’, in 1802. Thrilled to have no weight restrictions this time, Elgin greedily loaded that ship so much that it sank just off the shore on the island of Kythira. When that happened, he contacted the local British consulate, and in order to seek assistance for the retrieval of the treasures, he stated in his letter the infamous lie “…she had on board a quantity of boxes with stones of no value of themselves; but of great consequence for me to secure…”

Do read the full blog at: Why is Lord Elgin an abomination to the Greeks? | Effrosyni’s Blog

October 1st, 2015

Posted In: blogwereld, looting and illegal art traffickers, Parthenon Marbles, Parthenon Marbles (DO NOT CALL THE ELGIN MARBLES!), Ton Cremers

A reception to officially receive the return of stolen artefacts was held on Tuesday at the Byzantine museum of the Archbishop Makarios III foundation in Nicosia.

The event was attended by Archbishop Chrysostomos, Communications Minister Marios Demetriades and the Swiss ambassador, among others.

The 32 objects had been stolen from churches in the north and were repatriated from Munich on August 28.

They include murals, a pair of sanctuary doors, pictures and manuscripts. Seven prehistoric antiquities have already been transferred to the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia.

More: Reception to welcome back stolen artefacts – Cyprus Mail

September 15th, 2015

Posted In: Cyprus, looting and illegal art traffickers

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July 2nd, 2015

Posted In: Arthur Brand, Michel van Rijn

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August 1st, 2014

Posted In: Saint Louis Art Museum

Ancient Egyptian mask likely to stay at St. Louis Art Museum after feds give up legal fight

By Robert Patrick rpatrick@post-dispatch.com > 314-621-5154

ST. LOUIS • The Department of Justice is giving up its fight to reclaim for Egypt a 3,200-year-old mummy mask that disappeared from that country decades ago and later found its way into the collection of the St. Louis Art Museum.

“The Department of Justice will take no further legal action with respect to the mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer,” U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan said in response to questions from the Post-Dispatch on Monday, the deadline for the Department of Justice if it wished to prolong the court battle.

Museum officials couldn’t be reached immediately for comment. According to court filings, both sides are still discussing payment of the museum’s legal fees.

The mask was excavated in 1952 from a storage room near the step pyramid of Saqqara and was one of the items found with the mummified body of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, a noblewoman at the court of Ramses II.

The mask disappeared from storage in Egypt sometime between 1966 and 1973. The museum bought the mask in 1998 from a New York art dealer for $499,000.

When Egyptian authorities learned in 2006 that the museum had the mask, they began trying to get it back.

After negotiations failed, the federal government threatened to sue, but lawyers for the museum beat them to the courthouse, filing their own suit in January of 2011.

On March 31, 2012, U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey dismissed the government’s forfeiture lawsuit, saying that the Department of Justice failed to claim or prove that the mask was actually stolen.

“The Government cannot simply rest on its laurels and believe that it can initiate a civil forfeiture proceeding on the basis of one bold assertion that because something went missing from one party in 1973 and turned up with another party in 1998, it was therefore stolen and/or imported or exported illegally,” he wrote. He also said that lawyers failed to identify the law that had supposedly been broken when it was “illegally” imported into the U.S.

Government lawyers appealed.

On June 12, a three-judge panel of 8th U.S. Court of Appeals agreed with Autrey. The panel also said that the government “elected to ‘stand or fall’ on its untested legal theory” rather than add to the lawsuit, and missed a deadline to amend or appeal the suit.

Appeals Judge Diana E. Murphy said in a concurring opinion that the government could have cured the lawsuit’s deficiencies by listing other statutes that were violated by the mask’s importation, and by claiming that art dealers and the St. Louis Art Museum “knew or were willfully blind’ to facts including the mask’s ownership by Egypt, ineligibility for private ownership, and lack of a proper license.”

“While this case turns on a procedural issue,” Murphy wrote, “courts are bound to recognize that the illicit sale of antiquities poses a continuing threat to the preservation of the world’s international cultural heritage. Museums and other participants in the international market for art and antiquities need to exercise caution and care in their dealings in order to protect this heritage and to understand that the United States might ultimately be able to recover such purchases.”

On Monday, Callahan acknowledged that his office only had “a lack of record showing a lawful transfer,” not proof the mask was stolen.

“The evidence that we had showed that the mask was in the lawful possession of the Egyptian authorities for several years, and then there was a period with no activity,” he said. After that, “the mask was not in the possession of the Egyptian authorities anymore and there was no paperwork to support the theory that it lawfully left.”

The museum has said that the mask was part of a private collection in the 1960s, and was purchased in Switzerland by a Croatian collector, Zuzi Jelinek. Jelinek sold the mask to Phoenix Ancient Art in New York in 1995, the museum said.

The museum has said that it researched the mask’s ownership history before buying it, reaching out to Interpol, the Art Loss Register and others.

But critics continue to question whether the museum has a moral and ethical obligation to return the mask.

Monday was the deadline for the department to ask for a rehearing of the June 12 decision by the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals.

Robert Patrick covers federal courts and federal law enforcement for the Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter: @rxpatrick.

Ancient Egyptian mask likely to stay at St. Louis Art Museum after feds give up legal fight : News.

July 29th, 2014

Posted In: Saint Louis Art Museum

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July 7th, 2014

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers, Saint Louis Art Museum

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June 27th, 2014

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers, Saint Louis Art Museum

SLAM Mummy Mask Appeal: “You now have to beg for a do-over”

“All we want here is an opportunity to get in the gate,” argued U.S. Department of Justice Attorney Sharon Swingle before the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday. But Patrick McInerney, attorney for the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM), told the court that he wanted finality in the government’s failed attempt to take the Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask from his client.
Archaeologist Mohamed Zakaria Goneim discovered the more than 3,000 year old mask in Egypt in the 1950’s. Despite SLAM’s purchase of the mummy mask from a gallery in 1998 for approximately a half million dollars, authorities in the U.S. and Egypt say the mask remains a stolen object that was illegally removed from Egypt.
Government lawyers still want a chance to present this argument to the Missouri federal district court by filing a newly amended complaint that would restart the process to forfeit the Ka Nefer Nefer mask from SLAM. But they first need the approval of the court of appeals.The forfeiture case known as U.S. v. Ka Nefer Nefer was first begun in 2011 by the U.S. Attorney in St. LouisHowever, the lower courtdismissed the government’s claim in 2012, saying the the complaint was deficient. The district court turned the government down againafter attorneys tried to rejuvenate the case with a newly minted complaint alleging more facts surrounding the mask’s theft. Justice Department lawyers then appealed the district court’s technical decision dismissing the proceedings, setting the stage for Monday’s oral argument before a three judge appellate panel.

Circuit Court Judge James Loken bluntly observed during yesterday’s oral argument that the government made mistakes in the eyes of the district court and now, “You now have to beg for a do-over.” But Swingle protested that the grounds for the district court’s dismissal was not based on some “fundamental legal defect.” She stressed that the law favors deciding legal cases on their merits, not simply dismissing them before they are substantively argued. In fact, the law favors granting at least one opportunity to amend a complaint before dismissing it with prejudice, she argued.

McInerney contested Swingle’s assertions. “It’s really whether the government is entitled to an advisory opinion from the district court, with the help of defense counsel here, as to what the proper pleading elements are for their claim under the Tariff Act. Because that’s really what they want.”

If the government were successful in its appeal to restart the forfeiture case, McInerney suggested that it would be the first time that happened in the Eight Circuit under the federal rules. He argued that no special exception should be made for the government in this case.

Judge Loken may have given the impression that the government was out of luck, but he also hinted that government’s case might have life left if the appeal were denied. He asked more than once whether the declaratory judgment action might still go forward if the forfeiture case were dismissed. The “DJ” case is the original and still active companion case to the forfeiture action where SLAM petitioned to quiet the title of the Ka Nefer Nefer mask, seeking a judicial determination that it is the rightful owner of the mask. The appellate court suggested that the government could still argue its forfeiture claim as a defense in the DJ case. Swingle was not so sure, however.

Judge Diana Murphy inquired about allegations surrounding the sellers of the mask, remarking to Swingle, “When did facts come out about this company in Switzerland? …which has a cloudy past I gather ….” Swingle replied by describing specific criminal complaints made against the gallery’s owners. McInerney later addressed this issue of “some illegality” by saying,  “It ought to noted … that had absolutely no connection with this case; none whatsoever.” “The facts don’t show it.” Any criminal conduct claimed by the government “post-dated by four years the acquisition of the mask” by SLAM. “This left-handed suggestion that there was some … sort of misconduct in connection with the mask doesn’t stand,” McInerney iterated.

Judge Lavenski Smith attempted to clarify the timetable of the government’s requests to the district court to reconsider the dismissal of the case. He raised a question about the many months that went by between the filing of SLAM’s petition to dismiss the government’s forfeiture complaint, the district court’s dismissal, and the “equity to the government” concerning the opportunity to amend. In other words, why didn’t the government move for leave to amend its complaint during an apparently available ten month time period? Judge Smith, meanwhile, wanted to know what specific prejudice the museum would suffer if the case were allowed to continue and not dismissed. Swingle argued that the government’s actions were timely and, even if not, there was no disadvantage to SLAM.

Swingle endeavored to demonstrate that the government had been taking the high road in this litigation by expressing, “Our preference was to reach a mediated solution to this dispute …”  “It was the museum that precipitated a judicial intervention by filing the declaratory judgment.”

McInerney countered with several critiques. He cited federal attorneys’ failure to show that the mask was stolen. “In order to get to theft in the first place you have to get to ownership.” SLAM’s legal counsel argued that it is not enough for the government to allege that the mask was in one place at one moment and another place at another moment without alleging some type of theft. “They still can’t show that the item was ever owned by the Republic of Egypt,” he exhorted.

McInerney further contended that the government could have taken the case for appeal in a timely fashion but did not. They kept the case in district court, he charged, because “…they were banking on the district court writing a recipe for an appropriate complaint ….” It was 401 days after SLAM filed its motion to dismiss when the government finally presented what it believed was a factually compelling forfeiture complaint to the district court, presenting “satisfactory allegations” that “still don’t suffice,” pressed McInerney.

Swingle particularly objected that one of the grounds the district court relied on to dismiss the forfeiture case concerned an issue not even briefed by the litigants, but raised by the district court sua sponte (on its own), specifically that the government needed to allege facts showing that the mask was imported “contrary to law,” not simply that it needed to allege that the mask was stolen. McInerney urged that “contrary to law” was not a new element raised by the district court, it was just the district court recognizing what is required for a forfeiture claim filed under 19 U.S.C. §  1595a of the customs law.

On Justice Murphy’s mind was the district court’s failure to clarify why it denied the government’s request to amend the forfeiture complaint. She asked early in the oral argument if the district court abused its discretion. Later she questioned McInerney with, “You concede … that the district court did not say much?”Whether the district court abused its discretion is the issue that the judges will ultimately decide when they issue a ruling at a future date.

The appellate argument can be heard in its entirety by clicking here.

This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire at culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Text copyrighted 2010-2014 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post is prohibited. CONTACT INFORMATION: www.culturalheritagelawyer.com

Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire: SLAM Mummy Mask Appeal: “You now have to beg for a do-over”.

January 17th, 2014

Posted In: Cultural Heritage in Danger, looting and illegal art traffickers

SLAM Mummy Mask Appeal: “You now have to beg for a do-over”

“All we want here is an opportunity to get in the gate,” argued U.S. Department of Justice Attorney Sharon Swingle before the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday. But Patrick McInerney, attorney for the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM), told the court that he wanted finality in the government’s failed attempt to take the Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask from his client.
Archaeologist Mohamed Zakaria Goneim discovered the more than 3,000 year old mask in Egypt in the 1950’s. Despite SLAM’s purchase of the mummy mask from a gallery in 1998 for approximately a half million dollars, authorities in the U.S. and Egypt say the mask remains a stolen object that was illegally removed from Egypt.
Government lawyers still want a chance to present this argument to the Missouri federal district court by filing a newly amended complaint that would restart the process to forfeit the Ka Nefer Nefer mask from SLAM. But they first need the approval of the court of appeals.The forfeiture case known as U.S. v. Ka Nefer Nefer was first begun in 2011 by the U.S. Attorney in St. LouisHowever, the lower courtdismissed the government’s claim in 2012, saying the the complaint was deficient. The district court turned the government down againafter attorneys tried to rejuvenate the case with a newly minted complaint alleging more facts surrounding the mask’s theft. Justice Department lawyers then appealed the district court’s technical decision dismissing the proceedings, setting the stage for Monday’s oral argument before a three judge appellate panel.

Circuit Court Judge James Loken bluntly observed during yesterday’s oral argument that the government made mistakes in the eyes of the district court and now, “You now have to beg for a do-over.” But Swingle protested that the grounds for the district court’s dismissal was not based on some “fundamental legal defect.” She stressed that the law favors deciding legal cases on their merits, not simply dismissing them before they are substantively argued. In fact, the law favors granting at least one opportunity to amend a complaint before dismissing it with prejudice, she argued.

McInerney contested Swingle’s assertions. “It’s really whether the government is entitled to an advisory opinion from the district court, with the help of defense counsel here, as to what the proper pleading elements are for their claim under the Tariff Act. Because that’s really what they want.”

If the government were successful in its appeal to restart the forfeiture case, McInerney suggested that it would be the first time that happened in the Eight Circuit under the federal rules. He argued that no special exception should be made for the government in this case.

Judge Loken may have given the impression that the government was out of luck, but he also hinted that government’s case might have life left if the appeal were denied. He asked more than once whether the declaratory judgment action might still go forward if the forfeiture case were dismissed. The “DJ” case is the original and still active companion case to the forfeiture action where SLAM petitioned to quiet the title of the Ka Nefer Nefer mask, seeking a judicial determination that it is the rightful owner of the mask. The appellate court suggested that the government could still argue its forfeiture claim as a defense in the DJ case. Swingle was not so sure, however.

Judge Diana Murphy inquired about allegations surrounding the sellers of the mask, remarking to Swingle, “When did facts come out about this company in Switzerland? …which has a cloudy past I gather ….” Swingle replied by describing specific criminal complaints made against the gallery’s owners. McInerney later addressed this issue of “some illegality” by saying,  “It ought to noted … that had absolutely no connection with this case; none whatsoever.” “The facts don’t show it.” Any criminal conduct claimed by the government “post-dated by four years the acquisition of the mask” by SLAM. “This left-handed suggestion that there was some … sort of misconduct in connection with the mask doesn’t stand,” McInerney iterated.

Judge Lavenski Smith attempted to clarify the timetable of the government’s requests to the district court to reconsider the dismissal of the case. He raised a question about the many months that went by between the filing of SLAM’s petition to dismiss the government’s forfeiture complaint, the district court’s dismissal, and the “equity to the government” concerning the opportunity to amend. In other words, why didn’t the government move for leave to amend its complaint during an apparently available ten month time period? Judge Smith, meanwhile, wanted to know what specific prejudice the museum would suffer if the case were allowed to continue and not dismissed. Swingle argued that the government’s actions were timely and, even if not, there was no disadvantage to SLAM.

Swingle endeavored to demonstrate that the government had been taking the high road in this litigation by expressing, “Our preference was to reach a mediated solution to this dispute …”  “It was the museum that precipitated a judicial intervention by filing the declaratory judgment.”

McInerney countered with several critiques. He cited federal attorneys’ failure to show that the mask was stolen. “In order to get to theft in the first place you have to get to ownership.” SLAM’s legal counsel argued that it is not enough for the government to allege that the mask was in one place at one moment and another place at another moment without alleging some type of theft. “They still can’t show that the item was ever owned by the Republic of Egypt,” he exhorted.

McInerney further contended that the government could have taken the case for appeal in a timely fashion but did not. They kept the case in district court, he charged, because “…they were banking on the district court writing a recipe for an appropriate complaint ….” It was 401 days after SLAM filed its motion to dismiss when the government finally presented what it believed was a factually compelling forfeiture complaint to the district court, presenting “satisfactory allegations” that “still don’t suffice,” pressed McInerney.

Swingle particularly objected that one of the grounds the district court relied on to dismiss the forfeiture case concerned an issue not even briefed by the litigants, but raised by the district court sua sponte (on its own), specifically that the government needed to allege facts showing that the mask was imported “contrary to law,” not simply that it needed to allege that the mask was stolen. McInerney urged that “contrary to law” was not a new element raised by the district court, it was just the district court recognizing what is required for a forfeiture claim filed under 19 U.S.C. §  1595a of the customs law.

On Justice Murphy’s mind was the district court’s failure to clarify why it denied the government’s request to amend the forfeiture complaint. She asked early in the oral argument if the district court abused its discretion. Later she questioned McInerney with, “You concede … that the district court did not say much?”Whether the district court abused its discretion is the issue that the judges will ultimately decide when they issue a ruling at a future date.

The appellate argument can be heard in its entirety by clicking here.

This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire at culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Text copyrighted 2010-2014 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post is prohibited. CONTACT INFORMATION: www.culturalheritagelawyer.com

Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire: SLAM Mummy Mask Appeal: “You now have to beg for a do-over”.

January 17th, 2014

Posted In: Cultural Heritage in Danger, looting and illegal art traffickers

Search Results for: mask of ka nefer nefer

The Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit has set oral argument for January 13, 2014 on the appeal from the dismissal of the government’s civil forteiture case against the Mask of Ka Nefer-Nefer in the St. Louis Art Museum.

After a report from the United States that settlement talks in the civil forfeiture case against the Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer at the St. Louis Art Museum were sufficiently promise to suspend the briefing schedule in the Court of Appeals, the government has advised the court that those talks have failed.  The government’s appellate… Continue Reading

  The U.S. District Court in St. Louis has denied the government’s request to amend the complaint seeking civil forfeiture of the Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer from the St. Louis Art Museum.  Echoing some of the timeliness points we made after the government’s request for reconsideration of the dismissal of the case was denied on June 1,… Continue Reading

After the U.S. District Court denied the government’s Motion to Reconsider its earlier dismissal of the claim to the Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer in the St. Louis Museum of Art, the government has tried another procedure to revive the case, one that is normally unremarkable.  A review of the filings in the case raises the question, however,… Continue Reading

Fresh on the heels of our coverage here and here and in the Atlantic, the U.S. District Court in St. Louis has rejected the U.S. government’s efforts to save its case to reclaim the Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer.  After the case was dismissed in April, the government asked the court for permission to amend the complaint to… Continue Reading

Malcom Gay in the Atlantic reports on the dismissal of the federal government’s civil forfeiture action under U.S. customs laws United States v. The Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, and the broader quesions about what a museum should do when faced with such claims.  In April, the U.S. District Court allowed the St. Louis Museum of Art’s Motion… Continue Reading

  The St. Louis Art Museum has defeated the federal goverment’s efforts to seize the Egyptian Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer under U.S. customs laws.  The Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer is a funerary mask of an ancient Egyptian noblewoman.  The St. Louis Art Museum purchased it from a dealer in 1998.  Sometime later, the United States began to seek its seizure, arguing… Continue Reading

Search results for mask of ka nefer nefer | The Art Law Report.

December 27th, 2013

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers, Saint Louis Art Museum

Ben Zuidema (Henk Schutten): ‘Geroofde werken uit de Kunsthal niet verbrand’

03/09/2013 – 08:09‘Geroofde werken uit de Kunsthal niet verbrand’

De schilderijen die vorig jaar uit de Kunsthal werden gestolen, zijn niet verbrand. Een Nederlandse zakenman in Roemenië zegt daarvoor het bewijs te kunnen leveren. Begin deze maand nam hij contact op met de Limburgse privédetective Ben Zuidema.

HENK SCHUTTEN

Ben Zuidema heeft vanaf het begin af aan weinig waarde gehecht aan het verhaal dat de schilderijen uit de Kunsthal door de Roemeense dieven in een kachel zijn verbrand. Waarom zouden ze?

“Voor de dieven zijn die schilderijen hun levensverzekering,” legt de Limburgse privédetective uit. “De moeder van een van de verdachten heeft dat verhaal verzonnen om haar zoon te beschermen. Ze hoopte dat de politie zou stoppen met zoeken en wist niet dat op vernietiging van kunst in Roemenië twintig jaar celstraf staat.”

Zuidema is ervan overtuigd dat alle schilderijen nog in goede staat verkeren. Maar of ze op korte termijn terug zullen keren, betwijfelt hij: “De dieven willen niet vertellen waar ze zijn. En de Roemeense autoriteiten weigeren zich door een paar boefjes te laten chanteren.”

Zuidema’s vermoedens werden op 6 augustus bevestigd toen hij een bericht ontving van een Nederlandse zakenman die al ruim twintig jaar in Roemenië woont en werkt. De man verzekerde dat alle doeken nog geheel intact zijn. De dieven zijn bereid de schilderijen aan de Nederlandse autoriteiten terug te geven op twee voorwaarden. Ze willen strafvermindering en in Nederland berecht worden.

Dat het Roemeense onderzoek naar de vermeende asresten van de schilderijen – waarin meer dan honderd jaar oude spijkers en verfsporen zouden zijn aangetroffen – doorgestoken kaart is, beweert de zakenman eenvoudig te kunnen aantonen. Er zaten volgens hem helemaal geen spijkers in de doeken. Die waren door de dieven in Nederland al uit de sponningen gehaald, zodat de doeken konden worden opgerold.

Sterker nog, zo beweert de Nederlander, de moeder zou de verklaring dat de doeken waren vernietigd, onder grote druk van de Roemeense procureur van justitie hebben afgelegd. Een advocaat mocht bij dat gesprek niet aanwezig zijn. ‘De volgende dag is ze met advocaat teruggegaan om de verklaringen te herroepen.’ In de tussentijd zouden de verdachten zijn mishandeld. Advocate Maria Vasii, met wie de Nederlander zegt samen te werken, kreeg hen pas na drie uur te zien.

Ook Vasii, die aan de vooravond van het proces ‘spectaculaire onthullingen’ aankondigde, zou volgens de man zijn bedreigd. ‘Op de terugweg bleken vijf wielmoeren van het voorwiel van haar auto te zijn losgedraaid. Slingerend kon ze ongedeerd de vluchtstrook bereiken.’

Het laatste contact tussen Zuidema en de Nederlandse zakenman dateert van 10 augustus. Zuidema had gevraagd om een bewijs dat de schilderijen nog in goede staat verkeren, bijvoorbeeld een foto van de voor- en achterkant van de doeken met een krant van recente datum. De zakenman beloofde zijn best te doen, maar kon niets garanderen.

Het verhaal dat de schilderijen vernietigd zijn, komt de Roemeense autoriteiten goed uit, schrijft hij. Alle relaties en contactpersonen van de verdachten worden door de politie nauwlettend in de gaten gehouden, in de hoop dat een spoor naar de bergplaats van de schilderijen leidt. Voor een foto zou iemand terug moeten keren naar die plek met het risico gevolgd te worden. ‘In dat geval zal waarschijnlijk door de autoriteiten worden gemeld dat alles in de kachel is gegaan. Vervolgens wordt een vriendje van de procureur naar voren geschoven om met de verzekeringsmaatschappij te onderhandelen,’ stelt de Nederlander. ‘Ik doe al veertig jaar zaken in Roemenië en durf derhalve te claimen te weten hoe de hazen lopen.’

Alles wijst erop dat de Nederlandse zakenman weet waarover hij praat, zegt Zuidema. “Voordat de rechtszaak begon, wist hij al dat het proces verdaagd zou worden, zoals inderdaad gebeurde. In een van de mails schrijft hij ook dat de dieven zelfs al contact hebben opgenomen met de maatschappij in Nederland waar de schilderijen waren verzekerd. De naam van die contactpersoon wordt genoemd.”

Hoewel de man Zuidema met klem verzocht geen contact op te nemen met de Nederlandse politie, heeft de detective dat wel gedaan. “Dat doe ik altijd. Je kunt geen deals maken met criminelen buiten de politie om. Dan laat je je voor het karretje van de misdadigers spannen.”

Geen goed woord heeft Zuidema daarom over voor de zich ‘kunstjager’ noemende Amsterdammer die onlangs drie gestolen kunstwerken uit een museum in Venlo terugbezorgde. De man weigerde de namen te noemen van zijn contactpersonen. “Hij dekt de criminelen. Dat lokt nieuwe diefstallen uit. Ik zou zoiets nooit doen.”

De reputatie van de 76-jarige Zuidema strekt tot ver over de landsgrenzen. De afgelopen veertig jaar wist hij in samenwerking met politiediensten in binnen- en buitenland een groot aantal spraakmakende kunstroven op te lossen. Zijn naam vestigde hij in 1976 toen hij 118 Picasso’s terugbezorgde die gestolen waren uit het Pauselijk Paleis in Avignon.Daarna wist hij onder meer vermiste werken van Rubens en Breughel op te sporen en werd met zijn hulp een roversbende opgerold die op het punt stond valse schilderijen van de negentiende-eeuwse Engelse schilder William Turner te verkopen.

Vier jaar geleden wist Zuidema acht van de negen meesterwerken te achterhalen die in 1987 uit de galerie van Robert Noortman in Maastricht werden gestolen. De in 2007 overleden kunsthandelaar bleek indertijd zelf opdracht te hebben gegeven tot de diefstal en had een doek van Meindert Hobbema zelfs hoogstpersoonlijk in de kachel gegooid.

Zuidema bracht de Noortmandiefstal in nauwe samenwerking met een team van Amsterdamse rechercheurs van de Nationale Recherche – die hoog over de Limburgse speurder opgeven – tot een goed einde. Voor het terugbezorgen van de Noortmanschilderijen heeft de detective recht op dertig procent van de huidige waarde van de schilderijen, een miljoenenbedrag dat hij moet delen met het Art Loss Register, ‘s werelds grootste databank van gestolen kunst, die namens de verzekeraars optreedt. De beloning laat na vijf jaar nog steeds op zich wachten.

Om het geld is het hem helemaal niet te doen, zegt hij. Hij staat aan het hoofd van het NOB, een instituut, dat jaarlijks zo’n zeventig gecertificeerde privérechercheurs aflevert, ‘het hoogste slagingspercentage in Nederland’, zo meldt hij trots. Zuidema begon het opleidingsinstituut omdat hij het wat kalmer aan wilde doen, hoewel dat tot dusver nog niet erg wil lukken.

Nog steeds loopt hij regelmatig grote risico’s bij het opsporen van gestolen kunst. ‘Bloedlink’ is hij daarom over wat er gebeurde toen hij door een gefortuneerde Almelose zakenman werd ingeschakeld om zes gestolen schilderijen, waaronder een werk van Jan Sluijters, terug te bezorgen. Het spoor leidde naar een kunsthandelaar uit Diemen, Hans Günther S., volgens Zuidema een ‘spin in het web van gestolen kunst, zowel echt als vals’. De Diemenaar liet Zuidema in maart 2011 weten dat hij bereid was de schilderijen terug te verkopen. De detective beloofde contact met de verzekeraar op te nemen, maar schakelde zoals altijd meteen de politie in.

Tijdens een pseudokoop, waarbij twee agenten van de Nationale Rijksrecherche Regio Twente zich voordeden als verzekeringsagenten, moest de Diemenaar in de val worden gelokt. De zaak was vrijwel beklonken, toen S. zich liet ontglippen dat hij ook nog wel een schilderij van Frans Hals – met een geschatte waarde van vijftien miljoen – kon terugbezorgen. Het doek was in 2011 uit het Leerdamse museum Hofje van Aerden gestolen. Toen de Twentse rechercheurs dat hoorden, verloren ze al hun belangstelling voor de Almelose schilderijen. Het onderzoek werd overgedragen aan een team van de politie Rotterdam-Rijnmond.

De Frans Hals werd dankzij Zuidema terugbezorgd, de Almelose schilderijen niet. Hans Günther S. werd veroordeeld tot dertig maanden cel, waarvan zes voorwaardelijk, maar ging in beroep. Hij loopt nog vrij rond. De Almelose opdrachtgever is zijn schilderijen nog steeds kwijt en Zuidema kan fluiten naar zijn honorarium.

Een contactpersoon uit de Amsterdamse onderwereld heeft hem bovendien laten weten dat de bende die verantwoordelijk was voor de diefstal van de Frans Hals, nu achter hem aan zit. “Ik loop de risico’s, krijg geen geld en de agenten laten zich trots met witte handschoenen fotograferen met de Frans Hals, terwijl ze mij toch op z’n minst enige erkenning zouden kunnen geven voor mijn werk. ”

De politie Rotterdam-Rijnmond doet ook het onderzoek naar de roof in de Kunsthal, zodat Zuidema – op z’n zachtst gezegd – gemengde gevoelens koestert over de samenwerking. Vandaar dat hij eerst de Amsterdamse rechercheurs raadpleegde met wie hij de Noortmanzaak oploste, toen de zakenman in Roemenië contact met hem opnam. Die verwezen hem door naar de chef van het Rotterdamse rechercheteam die, daar twijfeltZuidema niet aan, ongetwijfeld zijn Roemeense collega’s zal hebben ingelicht.

Het moet dus heel raar lopen als de Kunsthalschilderijen – de grootste kunstroof van de afgelopen jaren – op korte termijn weer terugkeren, vreest de detective. “Ik wil me graag sterk maken om de kunst terug te brengen. Maar over de inwilliging van de eisen van de dieven – uitlevering aan Nederland en strafvermindering – kan alleen justitie beslissen. En dan moeten de Roemeense autoriteiten daar ook nog eens mee akkoord gaan.”

De kans daarop acht Zuidema niet bijster groot. “Ik kan alleen bemiddelen, maar dan moeten de autoriteiten in Nederland en Roemenië wel mee willen spelen.”

 

 Museumbeveiliging, Ton Cremers » Blog Archive » Ben Zuidema Henk Schutten: ‘Geroofde werken uit de Kunsthal niet verbrand’.

September 3rd, 2013

Posted In: Kunsthal, Michel van Rijn, Museum thefts

Ben Zuidema (Henk Schutten): ‘Geroofde werken uit de Kunsthal niet verbrand’

03/09/2013 – 08:09‘Geroofde werken uit de Kunsthal niet verbrand’

De schilderijen die vorig jaar uit de Kunsthal werden gestolen, zijn niet verbrand. Een Nederlandse zakenman in Roemenië zegt daarvoor het bewijs te kunnen leveren. Begin deze maand nam hij contact op met de Limburgse privédetective Ben Zuidema.

HENK SCHUTTEN

Ben Zuidema heeft vanaf het begin af aan weinig waarde gehecht aan het verhaal dat de schilderijen uit de Kunsthal door de Roemeense dieven in een kachel zijn verbrand. Waarom zouden ze?

“Voor de dieven zijn die schilderijen hun levensverzekering,” legt de Limburgse privédetective uit. “De moeder van een van de verdachten heeft dat verhaal verzonnen om haar zoon te beschermen. Ze hoopte dat de politie zou stoppen met zoeken en wist niet dat op vernietiging van kunst in Roemenië twintig jaar celstraf staat.”

Zuidema is ervan overtuigd dat alle schilderijen nog in goede staat verkeren. Maar of ze op korte termijn terug zullen keren, betwijfelt hij: “De dieven willen niet vertellen waar ze zijn. En de Roemeense autoriteiten weigeren zich door een paar boefjes te laten chanteren.”

Zuidema’s vermoedens werden op 6 augustus bevestigd toen hij een bericht ontving van een Nederlandse zakenman die al ruim twintig jaar in Roemenië woont en werkt. De man verzekerde dat alle doeken nog geheel intact zijn. De dieven zijn bereid de schilderijen aan de Nederlandse autoriteiten terug te geven op twee voorwaarden. Ze willen strafvermindering en in Nederland berecht worden.

Dat het Roemeense onderzoek naar de vermeende asresten van de schilderijen – waarin meer dan honderd jaar oude spijkers en verfsporen zouden zijn aangetroffen – doorgestoken kaart is, beweert de zakenman eenvoudig te kunnen aantonen. Er zaten volgens hem helemaal geen spijkers in de doeken. Die waren door de dieven in Nederland al uit de sponningen gehaald, zodat de doeken konden worden opgerold.

Sterker nog, zo beweert de Nederlander, de moeder zou de verklaring dat de doeken waren vernietigd, onder grote druk van de Roemeense procureur van justitie hebben afgelegd. Een advocaat mocht bij dat gesprek niet aanwezig zijn. ‘De volgende dag is ze met advocaat teruggegaan om de verklaringen te herroepen.’ In de tussentijd zouden de verdachten zijn mishandeld. Advocate Maria Vasii, met wie de Nederlander zegt samen te werken, kreeg hen pas na drie uur te zien.

Ook Vasii, die aan de vooravond van het proces ‘spectaculaire onthullingen’ aankondigde, zou volgens de man zijn bedreigd. ‘Op de terugweg bleken vijf wielmoeren van het voorwiel van haar auto te zijn losgedraaid. Slingerend kon ze ongedeerd de vluchtstrook bereiken.’

Het laatste contact tussen Zuidema en de Nederlandse zakenman dateert van 10 augustus. Zuidema had gevraagd om een bewijs dat de schilderijen nog in goede staat verkeren, bijvoorbeeld een foto van de voor- en achterkant van de doeken met een krant van recente datum. De zakenman beloofde zijn best te doen, maar kon niets garanderen.

Het verhaal dat de schilderijen vernietigd zijn, komt de Roemeense autoriteiten goed uit, schrijft hij. Alle relaties en contactpersonen van de verdachten worden door de politie nauwlettend in de gaten gehouden, in de hoop dat een spoor naar de bergplaats van de schilderijen leidt. Voor een foto zou iemand terug moeten keren naar die plek met het risico gevolgd te worden. ‘In dat geval zal waarschijnlijk door de autoriteiten worden gemeld dat alles in de kachel is gegaan. Vervolgens wordt een vriendje van de procureur naar voren geschoven om met de verzekeringsmaatschappij te onderhandelen,’ stelt de Nederlander. ‘Ik doe al veertig jaar zaken in Roemenië en durf derhalve te claimen te weten hoe de hazen lopen.’

Alles wijst erop dat de Nederlandse zakenman weet waarover hij praat, zegt Zuidema. “Voordat de rechtszaak begon, wist hij al dat het proces verdaagd zou worden, zoals inderdaad gebeurde. In een van de mails schrijft hij ook dat de dieven zelfs al contact hebben opgenomen met de maatschappij in Nederland waar de schilderijen waren verzekerd. De naam van die contactpersoon wordt genoemd.”

Hoewel de man Zuidema met klem verzocht geen contact op te nemen met de Nederlandse politie, heeft de detective dat wel gedaan. “Dat doe ik altijd. Je kunt geen deals maken met criminelen buiten de politie om. Dan laat je je voor het karretje van de misdadigers spannen.”

Geen goed woord heeft Zuidema daarom over voor de zich ‘kunstjager’ noemende Amsterdammer die onlangs drie gestolen kunstwerken uit een museum in Venlo terugbezorgde. De man weigerde de namen te noemen van zijn contactpersonen. “Hij dekt de criminelen. Dat lokt nieuwe diefstallen uit. Ik zou zoiets nooit doen.”

De reputatie van de 76-jarige Zuidema strekt tot ver over de landsgrenzen. De afgelopen veertig jaar wist hij in samenwerking met politiediensten in binnen- en buitenland een groot aantal spraakmakende kunstroven op te lossen. Zijn naam vestigde hij in 1976 toen hij 118 Picasso’s terugbezorgde die gestolen waren uit het Pauselijk Paleis in Avignon.Daarna wist hij onder meer vermiste werken van Rubens en Breughel op te sporen en werd met zijn hulp een roversbende opgerold die op het punt stond valse schilderijen van de negentiende-eeuwse Engelse schilder William Turner te verkopen.

Vier jaar geleden wist Zuidema acht van de negen meesterwerken te achterhalen die in 1987 uit de galerie van Robert Noortman in Maastricht werden gestolen. De in 2007 overleden kunsthandelaar bleek indertijd zelf opdracht te hebben gegeven tot de diefstal en had een doek van Meindert Hobbema zelfs hoogstpersoonlijk in de kachel gegooid.

Zuidema bracht de Noortmandiefstal in nauwe samenwerking met een team van Amsterdamse rechercheurs van de Nationale Recherche – die hoog over de Limburgse speurder opgeven – tot een goed einde. Voor het terugbezorgen van de Noortmanschilderijen heeft de detective recht op dertig procent van de huidige waarde van de schilderijen, een miljoenenbedrag dat hij moet delen met het Art Loss Register, ‘s werelds grootste databank van gestolen kunst, die namens de verzekeraars optreedt. De beloning laat na vijf jaar nog steeds op zich wachten.

Om het geld is het hem helemaal niet te doen, zegt hij. Hij staat aan het hoofd van het NOB, een instituut, dat jaarlijks zo’n zeventig gecertificeerde privérechercheurs aflevert, ‘het hoogste slagingspercentage in Nederland’, zo meldt hij trots. Zuidema begon het opleidingsinstituut omdat hij het wat kalmer aan wilde doen, hoewel dat tot dusver nog niet erg wil lukken.

Nog steeds loopt hij regelmatig grote risico’s bij het opsporen van gestolen kunst. ‘Bloedlink’ is hij daarom over wat er gebeurde toen hij door een gefortuneerde Almelose zakenman werd ingeschakeld om zes gestolen schilderijen, waaronder een werk van Jan Sluijters, terug te bezorgen. Het spoor leidde naar een kunsthandelaar uit Diemen, Hans Günther S., volgens Zuidema een ‘spin in het web van gestolen kunst, zowel echt als vals’. De Diemenaar liet Zuidema in maart 2011 weten dat hij bereid was de schilderijen terug te verkopen. De detective beloofde contact met de verzekeraar op te nemen, maar schakelde zoals altijd meteen de politie in.

Tijdens een pseudokoop, waarbij twee agenten van de Nationale Rijksrecherche Regio Twente zich voordeden als verzekeringsagenten, moest de Diemenaar in de val worden gelokt. De zaak was vrijwel beklonken, toen S. zich liet ontglippen dat hij ook nog wel een schilderij van Frans Hals – met een geschatte waarde van vijftien miljoen – kon terugbezorgen. Het doek was in 2011 uit het Leerdamse museum Hofje van Aerden gestolen. Toen de Twentse rechercheurs dat hoorden, verloren ze al hun belangstelling voor de Almelose schilderijen. Het onderzoek werd overgedragen aan een team van de politie Rotterdam-Rijnmond.

De Frans Hals werd dankzij Zuidema terugbezorgd, de Almelose schilderijen niet. Hans Günther S. werd veroordeeld tot dertig maanden cel, waarvan zes voorwaardelijk, maar ging in beroep. Hij loopt nog vrij rond. De Almelose opdrachtgever is zijn schilderijen nog steeds kwijt en Zuidema kan fluiten naar zijn honorarium.

Een contactpersoon uit de Amsterdamse onderwereld heeft hem bovendien laten weten dat de bende die verantwoordelijk was voor de diefstal van de Frans Hals, nu achter hem aan zit. “Ik loop de risico’s, krijg geen geld en de agenten laten zich trots met witte handschoenen fotograferen met de Frans Hals, terwijl ze mij toch op z’n minst enige erkenning zouden kunnen geven voor mijn werk. ”

De politie Rotterdam-Rijnmond doet ook het onderzoek naar de roof in de Kunsthal, zodat Zuidema – op z’n zachtst gezegd – gemengde gevoelens koestert over de samenwerking. Vandaar dat hij eerst de Amsterdamse rechercheurs raadpleegde met wie hij de Noortmanzaak oploste, toen de zakenman in Roemenië contact met hem opnam. Die verwezen hem door naar de chef van het Rotterdamse rechercheteam die, daar twijfeltZuidema niet aan, ongetwijfeld zijn Roemeense collega’s zal hebben ingelicht.

Het moet dus heel raar lopen als de Kunsthalschilderijen – de grootste kunstroof van de afgelopen jaren – op korte termijn weer terugkeren, vreest de detective. “Ik wil me graag sterk maken om de kunst terug te brengen. Maar over de inwilliging van de eisen van de dieven – uitlevering aan Nederland en strafvermindering – kan alleen justitie beslissen. En dan moeten de Roemeense autoriteiten daar ook nog eens mee akkoord gaan.”

De kans daarop acht Zuidema niet bijster groot. “Ik kan alleen bemiddelen, maar dan moeten de autoriteiten in Nederland en Roemenië wel mee willen spelen.”

 

 Museumbeveiliging, Ton Cremers » Blog Archive » Ben Zuidema Henk Schutten: ‘Geroofde werken uit de Kunsthal niet verbrand’.

September 3rd, 2013

Posted In: Kunsthal, Michel van Rijn, Museum thefts

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August 8th, 2013

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers, Saint Louis Art Museum

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June 4th, 2013

Posted In: CHASING APHRODITE, looting and illegal art traffickers

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May 21st, 2013

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May 21st, 2013

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May 21st, 2013

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May 5th, 2013

Posted In: African Affairs, ICOM Red List, looting and illegal art traffickers

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May 4th, 2013

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer settlement talks fail, appeal back on the docket

http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=4fec8f75-6fd2-4911-807f-b115b7013d18

April 29, 2013

Nicholas M. O’Donnell

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After a report from the United States that settlement talks in the civil forfeiture case against the Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer at the St. Louis Art Museum were sufficiently promise to suspend the briefing schedule in the Court of Appeals, the government has advised the court that those talks have failed.  The government’s appellate brief is now due June 3, 2013.

As quick recap, the Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer is a funerary mask of an ancient Egyptian noblewoman.  After the museum purchased it from a dealer in 1998, the United States later began to seek its seizure, arguing that it was stolen property.  The United States brought a civil forfeiture action under U.S. customs laws.  The government argued that because the Mask had gone missing in Egypt by 1973 and then surfaced in a sale in the United States decades later, it could not have been imported legally.  In such cases, the government need only establish probable cause, whereas the claimant assumes a burden to prove the object was not stolen.  They are typically, in metaphorical terms, a layup.

The District Court, however, came to a scathing conclusion of the government’s allegations.  The court stated “the claimant cannot even be sure of the who, what, when or where of the alleged events surrounding the alleged ‘stealing,’ nor can the Museum ascertain if the Government is pursuing of the Mask based on alleged theft or a unlawful import/export, or both.”  Harsher still, the court held that “the Government has been completely remiss in addressing the law under which the Mask would be considered stolen.”

The government’s efforts to amend the claim fared no better (and, we noted, arguably missed the deadline it requested to do so).  Echoing that very timeliness point, the court noted that the government had previously requested more time to move for permission to amend the complaint (in various filings the government had essentially asked for leniency to plead more specific facts to support the allegations of customs violations).

At that point the case went up on appeal.  In January, the government advised that a three-way meeting was in the works between the U.S., Egypt, and the museum in late February.  That has apparently run its course.  Briefing will consume the next few months, with an oral argument possibly in the late fall.

If you are interested in submitting an article to Lexology, please contact Andrew Teague at ateague@lexology.com.Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer settlement talks fail, appeal back on the docket – Lexology.

April 29th, 2013

Posted In: Saint Louis Art Museum

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April 23rd, 2013

Posted In: Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire, looting and illegal art traffickers

Failed Negotiations Put Ka Nefer Nefer Forfeiture Case Back on the Docket

http://culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com/2013/04/failed-negotiations-put-ka-nefer-nefer.html

April 18, 2013
The U.S. Attorney in St. Louis today told the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals that negotiations have failed in the case of United States v. Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer. Federal authorities are attempting to seize and forfeit the mummy mask from the St. Louis Art Museum and hope to return it to Egypt.
The federal district court in St. Louis twice dismissed the case last year before prosecutors filed an appeal to the higher court. But prosecutors told the appeals court in a January 17, 2013 status report that negotiations might resolve the matter. “It is the hope of the parties that this meeting will result in the parties and the Republic of Egypt coming to terms that will settle this matter in its entirety, such that no further appellate proceedings will be required,” the report explained.
Today’s report, in contrast, closes the door on any negotiated settlement. It announces:
“In the interim between the United States’ last status report and the present date, the parties have continued to confer in good faith in an attempt to reach an amicable resolution of this case. Unfortunately, the parties’ attempts have so far been unsuccessful, and the United States no longer believes that a nonjudicial resolution of this case is likely in the foreseeable future.”
The case will be placed back on the court docket and proceed to litigation.

This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire atculturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Text copyrighted 2010-2013 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post is prohibited. CONTACT:www.culturalheritagelawyer.com  Photo credit woofwoof.

Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire: Failed Negotiations Put Ka Nefer Nefer Forfeiture Case Back on the Docket.

April 18th, 2013

Posted In: Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire, looting and illegal art traffickers, Saint Louis Art Museum

http://www.uitzendinggemist.nl/afleveringen/1332151

March 17th, 2013

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers, Michel van Rijn

Ka Nefer Nefer Settlement Terms to be Discussed

http://culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.nl/2013/02/ka-nefer-nefer-settlement-terms-to-be.html

February 13, 2013

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The United States Attorney’s Office has informed the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals that a settlement may be possible between the federal government, Egypt, and the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM) in the Ka Nefer Nefer forfeiture case.The federal district court in St. Louis twice dismissed the case last year before prosecutors filed an appeal to the higher court.  But federal attorneys told the appeals court in a January 17 status report that “the parties are planning to meet between February 25 and 27, 2013 at a location agreed upon by the parties, where Appellant, Appellee, and the Republic of Egypt will each be represented. It is the hope of the parties that this meeting will result in the parties and the Republic of Egypt coming to terms that will settle this matter in its entirety, such that no further appellate proceedings will be required.”

This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire atculturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Text copyrighted 2012 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post is prohibited. CONTACT:www.culturalheritagelawyer.com

Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire: Ka Nefer Nefer Settlement Terms to be Discussed.

February 13th, 2013

Posted In: Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire, looting and illegal art traffickers, Saint Louis Art Museum

Le masque de Ka Nefer Nefer revient hanter un antiquaire

Un musée du Missouri avait acheté un précieux masque funéraire auprès d’une galerie chic de Genève. Les Etats-Unis affirment que l’objet a été volé puis recyclé via les Ports Francs, il y a quinze ans, mais les preuves manquent

Ce matin du 31 mai 1954, alors qu’il fouille le site de Sakkarah depuis des mois et que l’espoir d’une découverte l’abandonne, un étrange sentiment envahit l’archéologue Zakaria Ghoneim. «Cela semble extraordinaire, mais j’eus soudain le sentiment que cette pyramide avait une personnalité», racontera-t-il plus tard dans son livre, «The Buried Pyramid». L’égyptologue avance accroupi dans une galerie inviolée depuis 30 siècles. «En nous relevant et en dressant nos torches, un spectacle merveilleux nous attendait. » Au centre de la chambre funéraire trône un magnifique sarcophage d’albâtre doré, pâle et translucide. Le tombeau abrite les restes d’une femme. Elle porte un diadème de verre, et le haut de son corps est recouvert d’un magnifique masque de lin et de plâtre peint. Zakaria Ghoneim la baptise Ka Nefer Nefer, ou «Ka la double beauté».

La malédiction de Ka

Zakaria Goneim

La découverte est extraordinaire. Scientifiques et journalistes accourent du monde entier pour l’admirer. Zakaria Ghoneim rejoue la scène devant les caméras. Il est même pressenti pour prendre la direction du musée du Caire. Mais quatre ans plus tard, en 1959, la carrière du célèbre archéologue égyptien est brisée net. Accusé de pillage et de trafic d’antiquités, Zakaria Ghoneim se suicide en se jetant dans le Nil. Restauré en 1966, le masque finit quant à lui dans les réserves du musée du Caire, où il porte le numéro 6119, boîte 6. Ka Nefer Nefer apparaît une dernière fois lors d’un inventaire en 1973, puis tombe dans l’oubli.

Vingt-cinq ans plus tard, le masque resurgit mystérieusement dans une galerie chic des rues basses de Genève. La boutique, Phoenix Ancient Art, appartient à un riche homme d’affaires d’origine libanaise, Suleiman Aboutaam. En mars 1998, le galeriste et son fils Hicham signent la vente du masque au Musée de Saint Louis, aux Etats-Unis, pour 499 000 dollars (720 000 francs de l’époque). Puis la malédiction frappe à nouveau. Six mois après la vente, Suleiman Aboutaam et son épouse disparaissent dans les eaux glacées de la Nouvelle-Ecosse lors du crash du vol SR111.

L’histoire de Ka Nefer Nefer, qui rebondit aujourd’hui à l’occasion d’un procès aux Etats-Unis, est exemplaire des trajectoires troubles qu’ont suivies ces dernières décennies quantité de biens archéologiques, exhumés dans des conditions parfois suspectes tout autour du monde pour être dispersés via la Suisse sur le très lucratif marché des antiquités. Genève a longtemps joué le rôle de plaque tournante dans ces trafics d’œuvres pillées. Ce n’est qu’en 2005 qu’est entrée en vigueur la loi sur le transfert des biens culturels (LTBC), qui punit l’acquisition, l’importation ou la vente de trésors archéologiques volés. Avant cette date, les trafiquants jouissaient en Suisse d’une impunité totale. A tel point que le pays était devenu le lieu de passage obligé des pièces volées. C’est dans les Ports Francs de Genève que ces objets aux origines louches retrouvaient soudain un pedigree permettant leur vente dans les plus prestigieuses maisons d’enchères. Ceux-ci mentionnaient souvent un «collectionneur suisse», aussi riche qu’anonyme.

C’est bien ce qui se serait passé dans le cas du masque de Ka Nefer Nefer. En 2005, un ancien gardien de musée hollandais reconverti dans la traque d’œuvres volées, Ton Cremers, lance l’alerte sur un forum Internet spécialisé qui réunit des policiers et des responsables de musées. Il fait état d’informations confiées par une «personne associée de près à la disparition du masque».

La «route suisse»

Ali et Hicham Aboutaam

Ton Cremers affirme que l’objet, volé au musée du Caire à une date inconnue, a suivi la «route suisse» habituelle, via les Ports Francs, jusqu’aux «tristement célèbres Aboutaam». Il désigne ainsi Suleiman et ses deux fils, Ali et Hicham, qui ont repris Phoenix Ancient Art après la disparition de leur père. Actifs entre Genève et New York, les Libanais jouissent d’une réputation sulfureuse dans le milieu. Le nom d’Hicham Aboutaam, notamment, a été mentionné aux Etats-Unis et en Egypte dans des affaires de trafic d’antiquités. Ton Cremers adresse une copie de son message à Jean-Robert Gisler, spécialiste des biens culturels au sein de la police fédérale, ainsi qu’à Interpol et à un agent du FBI.

Le dossier paraît s’enliser, mais en 2011, les autorités américaines passent à l’attaque. Dans une procédure rarissime, le gouvernement fédéral ordonne la confiscation du masque pour procéder à sa restitution à l’Egypte. Mais le Musée de Saint Louis s’y oppose. S’engage alors une longue procédure devant un tribunal du Missouri. La plainte du gouvernement accuse les Aboutaam d’avoir organisé le transfert du masque et déguisé sa provenance. Lors de la vente au musée américain, Suleiman Aboutaam avait assuré que le masque provenait d’une collection privée, réunie dans les années 60. La piste se perdait au hasard d’une adresse à Cologny, et la date ne collait pas avec l’inventaire qui recensait le masque au Caire en 1973.

Disparu, mais pas volé

Le verdict est tombé jeudi dernier. Dans une ultime décision, le juge a débouté le gouvernement américain et donné raison au musée. En substance, la Cour maintient que si les autorités égyptiennes sont incapables d’éclaircir les circonstances de la disparition du masque – et donc de prouver son vol –, l’objet n’a pas à être rendu. A Genève, le directeur de Phoenix Ancient Art, Michael Hedqvist, se félicite de ce jugement «très important». «Durant toutes ces années, les autorités impliquées ont eu largement le temps de se pencher sur l’origine de cet objet», constate-t-il. Or, aucun élément nouveau ne serait apparu établissant que le masque a bien été volé. La vente de l’objet s’étant déroulée avant l’entrée en vigueur de la nouvelle loi sur le trafic de biens pillés, le directeur comme les frères Aboutaam n’ont de toute manière pas grand-chose à craindre en Suisse. A moins que d’autres affaires ne les rattrapent.

En avril dernier, Le Temps racontait comment des inspecteurs des douanes étaient tombés sur un magnifique sarcophage dans les Ports Francs de Genève. L’objet aurait été proposé par Phoenix Ancient Art au milliardaire et philanthrope Jean-Claude Gandur. Celui-ci aurait décliné au vu de ses origines douteuses. Alertée par la Suisse, la Turquie réclame le retour du sarcophage. Une enquête a été ouverte pour violation de la LTBC. Michael Hedqvist n’a pas souhaité s’exprimer sur cette affaire.

USA vs Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer – First Amended Complaint

USA vs The Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer – Ton Cremers 2005 email

Le masque de Ka Nefer Nefer revient hanter un antiquaire | superlocal.ch.

July 1st, 2012

Posted In: Saint Louis Art Museum

Will US Attorneys Appeal after latest Ka Nefer Nefer setback?

http://illicit-cultural-property.blogspot.nl/2012/06/will-us-attorneys-appeal-after-latest.html

June 5, 2012

A judge has dismissed the federal government’s request to reconsider an earlier ruling dismissing the government’s forfeiture request for the Ka Nefer Nefer mask currently on display at the St. Louis Art Museum. Rick St. Hilaire notes the U.S. Attorney must now make the decision whether to appeal the ruling on to the 8th Circuit.

The problem with the government’s initial case—at least in the district court’s view—was the government failed to allege the particular circumstances under which a crime took place as the mask left Egypt. This problem can be examined by referencing recent case law broadening the principle that looted and smuggled objects are considered tainted when they leave their country of origin, even in the absence of direct evidence of wrongdoing. I’m thinking for example of the Barakat ruling in the English High Court which offered claimant nations a broader platform of potential laws with which a nation of origin can claim theft.

But in this case the federal prosecutors had a difficult prospect as Egypt was unable to offer enough evidence establishing a crime had been committed. So despite the research the SLAM conducted when it acquired the mask in 1998, the government was unable to offer enough to convince a judge to forfeit the object and force SLAM to make its case. It is an open question whether the district court would have taken such rulings on board, likely not. But an appeals court is in a more favorable position to make broader inquiries in the law based on policy and foreign authority. 

Illicit Cultural Property: Will US Attorneys Appeal after latest Ka Nefer Nefer setback?.

June 5th, 2012

Posted In: Illicit Cultural Property, looting and illegal art traffickers, Saint Louis Art Museum

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June 4th, 2012

Posted In: Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues, Saint Louis Art Museum

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June 4th, 2012

Posted In: Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire, Saint Louis Art Museum

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June 4th, 2012

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June 3rd, 2012

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May 30th, 2012

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May 10th, 2012

Posted In: Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire, Saint Louis Art Museum

Brent Benjamin is a fence (let him proof this statement is inadequate)…

Weird legal system: proof of ownership is not enough; victims need to prove their property was stolen.
Judge Henry Edward Autrey gone crazy – from now on thieves and fences can say: give proof this was stolen. Provenance information about the Ka Nefer Nefer mask was manufactured by the infamous Aboutaam brothers.

St. Louis Art Museum wins fight to keep ancient Egyptian mask

http://molawyersmedia.com/blog/2012/04/05/st-louis-art-museum-wins-fight-to-keep-ancient-egyptian-mask/

April 6, 2012

Egyptian mask was missing from its assigned box during 1973 inventory

Published: April 5, 2012

Mummy Mask of the Lady Ka-nefer-nefer, courtesy of the Saint Louis Art Museum

The lady shall remain in St. Louis, says U.S. District Judge Henry Edward Autrey.

The judge ruled March 31 in favor of the Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, the named defendant in a dispute between the U.S. government and the Saint Louis Art Museum over the provenance of an ancient Egyptian mask.

The government claimed that the mask was found to be missing from Egypt in 1973, and that the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities became aware it was at the Saint Louis Art Museum in 2006.

“In its verified complaint, the Government boldly states that it seeks the forfeiture of all rights, title and interest in a 3,200 year old Egyptian Mask because ‘the circumstances’ indicate it was stolen property at the time it was imported into the United States,” the judge’s opinion states.

But, Autrey found, the government didn’t substantially prove that the treasure was actually stolen, smuggled or clandestinely imported; just that it had gone missing.

It was excavated in Saqqara, Egypt in 1952. For a while, it stayed boxed up. Then it went to Cairo in 1959, to prepare for an exhibit in Tokyo. But the Japanese trip never happened, and it returned to Saqqara in 1962. In 1966, it went back to Cairo, and wasn’t found in its assigned box during a 1973 inventory.

“The Government cannot simply rest on its laurels and believe that it can initiate a civil forfeiture proceeding on the basis of one bold assertion that because something went missing from one party in 1973 and turned up with another party in 1998, it was therefore stolen and/or imported or exported illegally,” the opinion reads.

The museum referred calls to their attorney in the case, David A. Linenbroker of Husch Blackwell, who was not immediately available for comment.The mask itself, on display in gallery 130 of the museum, presumably had no comment.


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via St. Louis Art Museum wins fight to keep ancient Egyptian mask Missouri Lawyers Media.

Art museum sues to keep Egyptian mummy mask

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/art-museum-sues-to-keep-egyptian-mummy-mask/article_6a5937bc-0ea6-50ca-94ab-aa45697af009.html

April 6, 2012

ST. LOUIS • The St. Louis Art Museum filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday asking a judge to order that the U.S. government has no claim on a 3,200-year-old mummy mask that officials in Egypt say was stolen from their country two decades ago.

The Ka-Nefer-Nefer mask, with its inlaid glass eyes and shimmering plaster face, has been on display here since the museum purchased it in 1998 from a New York art dealer for $499,000.

It has been a source of controversy since at least 2006, when a top Egyptian antiquities official demanded its return, saying it had been stolen in the early 1990s from a storage room near the step pyramid of Saqarra, where it was unearthed in 1952.

According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, the government is now trying to seize the mask for return to Egypt.

The suit asks for a judge to order the government to stop, contending that there is no proof the mask was stolen and that the statute of limitations has expired for any seizure under the Tariff Act of 1930.

According to that act, the seizure of any smuggled or stolen property must be within five years of the time of the theft, or two years after the theft was discovered, the suit says.

The U.S. government is named as a defendant, along with U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan, Attorney General Eric Holder and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, whose agency oversees customs enforcement.

David Linenbroker, the museum’s attorney, said authorities made it clear at a meeting hosted by the U.S. attorney’s office Jan. 13 that the museum must hand over the mask or face seizure.

Linenbroker said several assistant U.S. attorneys were there, as well as homeland security officials. He said federal prosecutors from New York also phoned in, presumably because that is where the mask first entered the country.

“The museum talked about it internally and with its board,” Linenbroker said. “We think it’s our responsibility and our right to defend our rightful ownership of the mask.”

Callahan would not confirm whether his office has begun forfeiture proceedings in court, or plans to do so. He also did not confirm the Jan. 13 meeting.

“It promises to be an interesting lawsuit, but I think any further response would best be left to a legal pleading,” Callahan wrote in an e-mail response to questions.

Ka-Nefer-Nefer was an ancient noblewoman at the court of Ramses II. Her mummified body was discovered in 1952 by Egyptian archaeologist Mohammed Zakaria Goneim, and the mask was among the antiquities uncovered.

The museum has insisted over the years that it researched the artifact’s ownership history before acquiring it from Phoenix Ancient Art, in New York. The museum reached out to Interpol and the Art Loss Register, among other entities, it contends, and was given no indication of questions about how the mask arrived in the U.S.

The museum’s research showed the mask was part of the Kaloterna private collection during the 1960s when it was purchased in Switzerland by a Croatian collector, Zuzi Jelinek. Jelinek sold the mask to the New York art dealer in 1995, according to the museum, which noted that gaps in ownership history are not unusual for rare, ancient objects.

The lawsuit says many of the allegations surrounding the mask began with Tom Cremers, the operator of the Museum Security Network, in Amsterdam, who sent multiple e-mails to government officials in 2005 and 2006 calling for an investigation. Cremers could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/art-museum-sues-to-keep-egyptian-mummy-mask/article_6a5937bc-0ea6-50ca-94ab-aa45697af009.html

Federal judge rules 3,200-year-old Egyptian mummy mask can remain at St. Louis Art Museum

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/federal-judge-rules-3200-egyptian-mummy-mask-can-remain-at-st-louis-art-museum/2012/04/05/gIQASAtXxS_story.html

April 6, 2012
ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis museum can keep hold of a 3,200-year-old mummy’s mask, a federal judge has ruled, saying the U.S. government failed to prove that the Egyptian relic was ever stolen.Prosecutors said the funeral mask of Lady Ka-Nefer-Nefer went missing from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo about 40 years ago and that it should be returned to its country of origin. The St. Louis Art Museum said it researched the provenance of the mask and legitimately purchased it in 1998 from a New York art dealer.
U.S. District Judge Henry Autry in St. Louis sided with the museum.The U.S. government “does not provide a factual statement of theft, smuggling or clandestine importation,” Autry wrote in the March 31 ruling.“The Government cannot simply rest on its laurels and believe that it can initiate a civil forfeiture proceeding on the basis of one bold assertion that because something went missing from one party in 1973 and turned up with another party in 1998, it was therefore stolen and/or imported or exported illegally,” the judge wrote.A message left with Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities was not returned.The 20-inch-long funeral mask of painted and gilded plaster-coated linen over wood with inlaid glass eyes was excavated from one of the Saqqara pyramids, about 16 miles south of Cairo, in 1952. Ka-Nefer-Nefer was a noblewoman who lived from 1295 BC to 1186 BC.U.S. government investigators suspect the mask was stolen sometime between 1966, when it was shipped to Cairo for an exhibit, and 1973, when the Egyptian Museum discovered it was missing.The art museum bought the mask in 1998 for $499,000 from a New York art dealer, and it has been on display at the museum in Forest Park ever since.U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan said a decision on whether to appeal has not been made.“We’re just looking to make sure we haven’t missed the tiniest bit of circumstantial evidence,” Callahan said. “We’re back to the drawing board and studying it.”Museum officials have said they researched the mask’s ownership history before buying it and had no indication there were questions about how it arrived in the U.S. The museum’s research showed the mask was part of the Kaloterna private collection during the 1960s, before a Croatian collector, Zuzi Jelinek, bought it in Switzerland and later sold it to Phoenix Ancient Art of New York in 1995. The art museum purchased the mask from Phoenix Ancient Art.St. Louis Art Museum attorney David Linenbroker said the museum is confident the ruling will mean that the mask can remain permanently in St. Louis.“We don’t have any interest in possessing a stolen object,” Linenbroker said. “We’ve been facing all this innuendo for years.”He said the legal process provided an opportunity for someone to prove the mask had been stolen, but no one did.“We’re confident we’re the rightful owner,” Linenbroker said.

St Louis Art Museum “Looking After” Ka Nefer Nefer?

http://paul-barford.blogspot.com/2012/04/st-louis-art-museum-looking-after-ka.html

April 8, 2012
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Just how well-looked after is the Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask in St Louis Art Museum? I was struck by an old photo of the object, which gave the face a very apprehensive look. I then tried to find out where it had come from and found another photo, similar but not the same on Zahi Hawass’ blog. But then I noticed something else about Hawass’ photo. Take a look at the official SLAM photos accompanying the joyous news that they will (for the moment at least) continue to take care of this object for the Egyptian people – to whom it rightfully belongs in their building-site-which-was-a-museum.  Take a look at the mask’s right shoulder (on our left) which is perfectly well-lit in Hawass’ photo. Notice what appears to be a missing chunk of gesso (resin)? Note on the Hawass photo the clear signs of scraping on the wrist on the right hand side which is where the hieratic inscription, “the Osiris Neferu” has been scraped off (Johnston says its the “left” hand, but the scraping is visible on the right)

Focus on the Ka Nefer Nefer “Collection History” (1) (“Here Zakki, you can have this”)

http://paul-barford.blogspot.com/2012/04/focus-on-ka-nefer-nefer-collection.html

April 8, 2012
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The collection history of the mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer currently in the St Louis Art Museum is crucial to the SLAM claim to the object. The mask was excavated by Muhammed Zakaria Goneim in 1952 in a grave at Saqqara. It was part of a small Ramesside cemetery in the layers overlying the lower courses of the unfinished step pyramid of Sekhemkhet. We do no know what position Ka Nefer Nefer (or Neferu) held, though circumstantial evidence suggests she lived in the times of Rameses II in the 19th Dynasty. Her body had not been mummified, the corpse was given a gilded cartonage mask and placed (apparently unwrapped) in a grave wrapped in a large reed mat. This is a type of rite more commonly associated with lower class burials, though the quality of the mask and accompanying gold items and range of amulets (and two alabaster shabtis) most of them inscribed with her name show that this was not the burial of a poor woman. It has been suggested that she was of Libyan ancestry.I’d like to draw attention to the wiki by K.M. Johnston on this burial which is more accessible to most readers I would guess than Gonheim’s own published account, it was put up on 16 January 2011 and deserves much more attention, this is because it highlights what else was in that grave.  The smaller items are all still in Saqqara.Let us imagine that the version fed to SLAM by the dealers, the Aboutaams, is true. The idea is that for his merits as an archaeologist the Egyptian Government in its munificence gave him one of the objects from the state-funded excavations he had directed as a reward. This is the way the mummy mask (the Aboutaams suggest) came onto the market legally, as the excavator’s own private property.This is highly unlikely to have happened. First of all this is not what happened in Egyptian archaeology in the 1950s. Furthermore, Gonheim himself was not exactly flavour of the month after he had embarrassed the government in June 1954 when a much hyped pyramid-opening was a flop when the sarcophagus turned out to be empty. He was soon after this hounded, accused of antiquity thefts (it seems unjustly – there is a history of that in Egyptian archaeology) and committed suicide (or was killed) in January 1959. At what stage would the mask be “given to him” in the Aboutaam version of events? It was found early in 1952, seven years later Gonheim was dead. When he published the book in 1956 he thanked the Supreme Council for use of the photo of the object, unlikely if he had then been in possession of it.After he died, under the shadow of accusations of pinching stuff, under what circumstances would his heirs be able to export it and a foreign gallery purchase it? Also, had Goneim’s enemies been accusing him of stealing objects, if he had indeed officially been granted the possession of one of his excavated finds, the fact that a whopping big mummy mask was not in the collections would have aroused suspicions, and one would have expected there to be a trace in some written records somewhere that he had secured himself against accusations on that account by providing some details of how he had come by this rather noticeable object by official channels. Instead, he was accused of nicking a vase (which later turned up in the muddle – even in 1959 – of the stores at the Egyptian Museum).More to the point, the grave contained a whole lot of goodies. Had a magnanimous official wished to “reward” an archaeologist for doing his job, why would he choose the biggest – and most museum-displayable – thing in the grave?  There were two gold inlaid pectorals, and two alabaster shabtis, if ‘partage’ of some sort was being practiced, surely one of those would be a good ‘gift’? The amulets or beads likewise. The Saqqara storeroom is already full of such things. Anything would have made a more suitable “present” (official or not) than the mask.The fact is that in 1952-9 no ‘partage’ had been practised for thirty years. The Aboutaam/SLAM story fails to provide any evidence why in this particular case that principle was ignored, and why it was the mummy mask that Goneim “received”. Of course neither party feels under any obligation to support their far-fetched interpretation of events.Of course if the mask originated from Gonheim, as the Aboutaams assert, and it had not been an official grant, that too has consequences for the SLAM claim to ownership.Photo: Mohammed Zacharia Goneim (1905-1959): the first owner of the Ka Nefer Nefer mask?

http://www.savingantiquities.org/tag/st-louis-art-museum/

The St. Louis Museum of Art (SLAM) filed a complaint in federal district court on February 15, 2011 asking for a declaratory judgment to prevent federal authorities from seizing a 19th Dynasty Egyptian mask popularly known as Ka-Nefer-Nefer.

The mask, excavated at Saqqara in 1952 by Mohammed Zakaria Goneim, was sold to SLAM in 1998 by Phoenix Ancient Art in Geneva. According to the New York Times, in 2006 Egypt first claimed that the mask was stolen and asked the museum to return it; and in 2008, U.S. Department of Homeland Security was “looking into the case.” While the museum insists that there is no documentation to prove that Ka-Nefer-Nefer is Egyptian property, stolen, or smuggled, many think otherwise. In a comment to our post, Dr. Peter Lacovara wrote:

The St. Louis Art Museum was informed by me soon after the purchase of that Mask that it came from Goneim’s excavations, was published and where, and that although it was not registered in the Cairo Museums’ inventory, the only means by which it could have legally left Egypt was if it had been retained by Goniem and later legally sold by him or his heirs and they would need to investigate this. They did not.

Another telling fact is that the name of the owner of the mask Ka-nefer-nefer was written in hieratic on the hand of mask and was scratched out and over painted to disguise its identity. If this were a painting published in a European catalog no one would dream of trying to justify keeping it without a clear and legitimate history. The Museum never undertook due diligence in trying to determine the provenance of this piece despite being told there was a cloud over it from the beginning.

They have no justification in retaining this mask and it should be returned to Egypt and the Museum should underwrite the cost of a conservator removing the over paint and restoring the inscription on the hand.

When SAFECORNER asked in an informal poll last March what should happen with the lawsuit, the results were:

  • 26% said “SLAM should continue legal action in federal court.”
  • 46% said “SLAM should produce documentation proving that the mask was legally exported from Egypt.”
  • 45% said “SLAM should acknowledge Egypt’s claim of ownership.”
  • 25% said “SLAM should drop the lawsuit.”

The curious case of St Louis Art Museum vs the United States may have just become “curiouser and curiouser” with the U.S. District Court’s dismissal of the government’s effort to forfeit the disputed Ka Nefer Nefer mask, but what about the case of St. Louis Art Museum vs public opinion?

According to Associated Press,

U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan said a decision on whether to appeal has not been made.

“We’re just looking to make sure we haven’t missed the tiniest bit of circumstantial evidence,” Callahan said. “We’re back to the drawing board and studying it.”

Meanwhile, the SLAM Attorney Linenbroker is said to be confident “we’re the rightful owner.”

The American Association of Museum (AAM) Code of Ethics for Museums says that a museum must make a “unique contribution to the public by collecting, preserving, and interpreting the things of this world.” How is the public served in the case of Ka-Nefer-Nefer? What do you think?

Add your voice to our latest poll: Should the St. Louis Art Museum return the disputed Ka-Nefer-Nefer funeral mask to Egypt?

The not-so-clear case of the missing mummy mask

http://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/columns/the-platform/editorial-the-not-so-clear-case-of-the-missing-mummy/article_09006498-25b6-5bd2-8a03-92d6c87daf91.html

April 10, 2012

For the time being, and perhaps permanently, the funeral mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer remains the property of the St. Louis Art Museum. It’s not entirely clear whether this is a good thing or not.

On Friday, U.S. Attorney Richard G. Callahan asked U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Autrey to reconsider his March 31 order dismissing the government’s claim that the 3,200-year-old “mummy mask” somehow had been improperly obtained by the Art Museum in 1998. The government of Egypt, which lost track of the mask in 1973, wants it back.

The problem, Judge Autrey wrote, is that the law doesn’t allow the government to assert “that because something went missing from one party in 1973 and turned up with another party in 1998 it was therefore stolen and/or imported or exported illegally.”

The judge’s decision was a victory for the Art Museum, which has steadfastly insisted that it made exacting efforts to determine the mask’s provenance before purchasing it for $499,000 from Phoenix Ancient Art, a New York antiquities dealer.

Say you spend $200 for a 52-inch Sony plasma TV that a guy tells you fell off a truck. Two weeks later, the cops show up at your door asking for a receipt. In Missouri, you can be charged with a Class C felony for receiving stolen property even if you claim you didn’t know the TV was stolen.

The art and antiquities world is far more complicated. It is a world full of passionate advocates and venal flim-flammers. Tracing the origin, ownership and authenticity of any given object can be hideously difficult. There are cultural and political ramifications, even philosophical differences.

Does art belong, by right, to the country of origin, even if that country is in chaos? Or does art transcend geography and belong to humanity? Are people being deprived of their cultural heritage, or should art be appreciated by and preserved for the widest possible audience?

For all of these reasons, the mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer has become a minor cause célèbre in the art and antiquities world. After it was discovered in 1952, it was stuffed away in storage for more than 20 years. It appears to have become important only when the St. Louis Art Museum began exhibiting it. Zahi Hawass, a flamboyant self-promoter who was Egypt’s minister of antiquities under President Hosni Mubarak, began demanding its return.

Last week the Egyptian newspaper Al-Arham reported that Egypt’s new government has charged Mr. Hawass with wasting public money and stealing Egyptian antiquities. As Egypt prepares for elections next month, issues of cultural heritage have been put on the back burner.

Eventually, as the United States builds relations with the new Egypt, U.S. museums may face greater pressure to return Egyptian art. But under international patrimony laws that existed in 1973, when Egypt discovered that the mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer was missing, the Art Museum here seems to have a solid claim of ownership.

“The museum believes it holds these objects in trust,” said David Linenbroker, the museum’s attorney. “The museum can’t just turn it over.”

“We dont have any interest in possessing a stolen object”

http://lootingmatters.blogspot.com/2012/04/slam-we-dont-have-any-interest-in.html

April 11, 2012

David Linenbroker, the attorney for the St Louis Art Museum (SLAM), has spoken about the legal ruling over the Egytian mummy mask acquired by the museum (“Judge: 3,200-year-old mummy mask can stay in Mo.”, AP, April 5, 2012).

We don’t have any interest in possessing a stolen object …We’ve been facing all this innuendo for years.

I am delighted that SLAM does not want to “possess” stolen objects.

The same report states:

Museum officials have said they researched the mask’s ownership history before buying it and had no indication there were questions about how it arrived in the U.S. The museum’s research showed the mask was part of the Kaloterna private collection during the 1960s, before a Croatian collector, Zuzi Jelinek, bought it in Switzerland and later sold it to Phoenix Ancient Art of New York in 1995. The art museum purchased the mask from Phoenix Ancient Art.

It is now clear that the mask could not have entered the “Kaloterna collection” in the early 1960s as the object was still in Egypt. The collecting history for the mask appears to be seriously flawed. Why? What could be the motive?What does Linenbroker understand by “innuendo”? Perhaps he could produce the authenticated documentation demonstrating the full collecting history of the mask. Perhaps he could explain the apparent fact that the mask was still in Egypt at the time that the museum claimed it was in a private collection in Switzerland.

Ka Nefer Nefer and the SLAM-Promoted Collecting History (II) The Mysterious Mr Mathez

http://paul-barford.blogspot.com/2012/04/ka-nefer-nefer-and-slam-promoted.html

April 11, 2012
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St. Louis Art Museum attorney David Linenbroker said the museum does not “have any interest in possessing a stolen object” and “We’re confident we’re the rightful owner“. He adds: “We’ve been facing all this innuendo for years”.Well, it has gone a little beyond “innuendo”.

According to documents the seller supplied to the St. Louis museum, the mask was seen in 1952 at an antiquities dealer in Brussels, Belgium.  Roughly ten years later, the provenance says, the object was bought by a private collector and then sold to an unnamed Swiss citizen, in whose private collection it would remain for 40 years. In 1997 the mask was purchased for an undisclosed sum by Phoenix Ancient Art, which sold it one year later to the Saint Louis Art Museum for $499,000. The provenance bases the mask’s Belgium stopover on the eyewitness declaration of a Swiss man named Charly Mathez, who in 1997 attested that he’d seen the Ka-Nefer-Nefer at a Brussels gallery 45 years earlier.
“I confirm that I saw this Egyptian piece…in an important antiquities dealership in Brussels, Belgium in 1952,” reads Mathez’s handwritten declaration, dated February 11, 1997. The declaration, written in French, continues: “I remember this date very well because I often traveled to Belgium on business during this time, and this piece interested one of my clients.”
After buying the mask, Saint Louis Art Museum officials contacted Mathez in the hope that he might provide additional information that would bolster the provenance. “It’s been a long time,” Mathez replied in a letter dated October 5, 1999, conceding that he could not recall the name of the Brussels gallery and apologizing that he could be of no further assistance.
“He is a person who told us that he was in Brussels on business quite a lot in the 1950s. That’s what we know,” says [SLAM Director]  Benjamin. “But we do have an address for him, and he wrote back to us directly.”
How had Phoenix Ancient Art known to contact Mathez in the first place? “The relationship between the two? I don’t know,” says Benjamin, who came to the museum a year after the mask’s purchase. “I’m not aware that that particular question was asked.”
Hicham Aboutaam, who now runs Phoenix Ancient Art with his brother Ali, doesn’t know either. “I really don’t know [who Charly Mathez is],” Aboutaam says from his New York gallery. “I’d have to look at those documents. It’s been, what, eight years now?”

Well, now many more years have passed and very little information has come to light about these circumstances. There is no evidence that Mr Aboutaam actually did dig out the documents underpinning a half-million dollar deal done just a few years previously. We still know nothing more about this mysterious Swiss citizen Charly Mathez, and about his claim that the object was already in Brussels as early as 1952. The problem here for SLAM is that this does not tally with what Judge Autrey states in his opinion rejecting the US government’s claims. Even this hyper-sceptical judge states that he accepts (as the basis for further discussion):

the Mask was excavated at Saqqara, Eqypt, in 1952, placed in storage in Saqqara following its excavation where it remained until 1959, and then was “packed for shipping” to Cairo, Egypt, in preparation for an exhibit in Tokyo,Japan. The complaint further states that the Mask was “received by police guards” in Cairo in July of 1959, but instead of traveling to Tokyo, it remained in Cairo until 1962 when it was transferred back to Saqqara. The verified complaint further states that the Mask was removed from Saqqara in 1966 and “traveled” to Cairo in “box number fifty-four,” the “last documented location of the Mask in Egypt.” The complaint then goes on to state that in 1973, an inventory was taken of box number fifty-four, whereupon it was discovered the Mask was “missing.” The complaint states, “The register did not document that the Mask was sold or given to a private party during the time frame of 1966 to 1973.”

Placing these two accounts together, we find that a claim is made that in 1952 the same object was both in a Brussels showroom as well as being in Saqqara when exhibits were being packed for a Tokyo exhibition. Now I think it hardly likely that the Egyptians would have packed the wrong mummy mask in 1959 – they had a register with photos showing what it looked like. It was verified as being in that box in 1966. So Mr Charly Mathez was very much mistaken about which female nineteenth century mummy mask he saw.There is a bit more information about Mr Mathez however than last time I wrote. It seems that Charly Léo Mathez of Neuchateldied in February 2002. His origin however was given as Tramelan Belgium. It is interesting that several antiquities have appeared on the market – including at least two being sold by Phoenix Antiquities which are given a provenance going back to the collection of “Provenance: Old Collection of Charly Mathez, Neuchâtel, 1960s-1970s / Ex- C. Mathez collection, Neuchâtel” (Anatolian figureanother Anatolian figure, and a seated ‘idol’)

 

Ka Nefer Nefer and the SLAM-Promoted Collecting (III) The Kaloterma Collection

http://paul-barford.blogspot.com/2012/04/ka-nefer-nefer-and-slam-promoted_11.html

April 11, 2012
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In the 2006 article “Out of Egypt”, Malcolm Gay tells us that the next step in the SLAM-promoted collecting history of this object is:

According to the museum’s provenance, the mask next surfaced in the “early 1960s” in the “Kaloterna Collection.” The document provides no further information about the change in ownership other than to speculate in a footnote that “Kaloterna” might be a misspelling of “Kaliterna,” a common Croatian surname. The mask was soon resold, according to the provenance, this time to a “Private Collection, Switzerland”. The transaction is said to have occurred in the “early 1960s.”

This is odd, there is no trace anywhere else of there ever having been a “Kaloterna” collection, either in Croatia (then in Communist Yugoslavia behind the iron Curtain) or outside. How did this Kaloterna get the object from “Brussels” through the Iron Curtain? How did the object get back through the same barrier in “the early 1960s” at the height of the Cold War?

So let us summarise the two versions:
SLAM claims: 
1952 object given to the excavator who immediately sends it out of Egypt and sells it (how?) and it ends up in a Brussels gallery.
1952 on sale in an unnamed Brussels gallery
1953 onwards, the mask is bought in Brussels by a mysterious “Kaloterma”- possibly Croatian.
“the early 1960s” – “Kaloterma” soon sells it to a mysterious “Swiss collector”. It was in that collection  for 40 years. In 1997 the mask was purchased for an undisclosed sum by Phoenix Ancient Art.The Egyptian and US government claim: 

1952 the object was still in Egypt.
In 1953 onwards it cannot have been in an otherwise unknown “Kaloterma” collection, since it was still in Egypt.
Soon after its purchase by the otherwise unknown “Kaloterma” it cannot have been sold to the otherwise unknown “Swiss collector” in the early 1960s, since it was still in Egypt. To be precise it was in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. It remained there until 1962, when the mask was still in Egypt and was transferred back to Saqqara.
The verified complaint further states that the Mask cannot have been in a Swiss collection in 1966 since in that year it was taken from Saqqara and went back to the Cairo Egyptian Museum in “box number fifty-four”. This is the “last documented location of the Mask in Egypt”. The boxes were placed in storage and it was only when they were opened in 1973 for inventorying that it was discovered that in the seven-year period (1966-73) the object had been taken from its box and now could no longer be found in the Museum. There is no record of any legal purchase of this object, or any legal transport of this object out of Egypt between 1966/73 and 1997.
In 1997 the mask was purchased for an undisclosed sum by Phoenix Ancient Art.

 

See you in St Louis, Ka-Nefer-Nefer

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2012/1093/heritage.htm

April 13, 2012
The 3,300-year-old cartonnage mask of the noblewoman Ka-Nefer-Nefer is not likely to return to Egypt unless new evidence emerges, Nevine El-Aref reports
  Click to view caption
Ka-Nefer-Nefer’s mask on display at SLAM

After a six-year controversy over the ownership of the 19th-Dynasty mummy mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, a noblewoman from the court of Pharaoh Ramses II, a United States federal judge has ruled that it should stay at the St Louis Art Museum where it has been exhibited since 1998.

The US government had claimed the mask was being held illicitly and should be returned to Egypt.

According to the stltoday website, US District Judge Henry Autry vindicated his ruling that the US government failed to prove that the ancient Egyptian mask had been stolen and smuggled abroad after it went missing from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo about 40 years ago.

The US government “does not provide a factual statement of theft, smuggling or clandestine importation”, Autry recorded in the 31 March ruling. “The government cannot simply rest on its laurels and believe that it can initiate a civil forfeiture proceeding on the basis of one bold assertion that because something went missing from one party in 1973 and turned up with another party in 1998, it was therefore stolen and/or imported or exported illegally,” the judge wrote.

The government’s argument was prefaced on the assumption that the Mask of Ka-Nefer- Nefer was stolen, and was thus forfeitable. Yet the government failed to present compelling evidence that a theft had occurred. Instead, it relied on a lack of any documentation “that the mask was sold or given to a private party during the time frame of 1966 to 1973.”

US Attorney Richard Callahan told stltoday that a decision had not been made on whether to appeal.

“We’re just looking to make sure we haven’t missed the tiniest bit of circumstantial evidence,” Callahan said. “We’re back to the drawing board and studying it.”

The ruling came after almost a year-long lawsuit between St Louis Art Museum (SLAM) and the US government, which wants to seize the mask in order to return it to Egypt on the grounds that it is Egyptian property and has been stolen and illegally smuggled out of the country.

SLAM attorney David Linenbroker said the SLAM did not have any interest in possessing a stolen object. He maintained that the legal process provided an opportunity for anyone to prove that the mask had been stolen, but no one did. Linenbroker said the SLAM was now confident now that it was the rightful owner.

The suit opened in February 2011 when the SLAM filed a federal lawsuit asking the judge to order that the US government had no claim on the mask since there was no proof that it had been stolen and illegally smuggled out of Egypt, and that the statute of limitations for any seizure under the Tariff Act of 1930 had expired.

According to that act, the seizure of any smuggled or stolen property must be within five years of the time of the theft or two years after the theft was discovered.

In return, the US attorney’s office filed a series of court motions from mid-March in an attempt to seize the mask. Its official intent was that the government wanted custody of the mask through a civil forfeiture complaint, and it also sought a restraining order to prevent the SLAM from doing anything with the ancient artefact while the issue played out in court.

The Ka-Nefer-Nefer mask is a very beautiful ancient Egyptian artefact depicting the face of a woman of the court of Ramses II. It has inlaid glass eyes and a smiling face covered in gold. The head is adorned with a startling black wig decorated with a gilded lotus flower, and each hand holds a wooden amulet signifying strength and position. A delicate scene carved in relief on the arms shows her successful ascent into the afterlife on the boat of the Great God Osiris.

The Ka-Nefer-Nefer mask has been a source of controversy between the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) and the SLAM since 2006, when the secretary-general of the then Supreme Council of Antiquities Zahi Hawass claimed it had been stolen and illegally smuggled out of the country and demanded its return to Egypt.

Back in 2006 Hawass had told Al-Ahram Weekly that the mask belonged to Egypt and “by every standard, from the strictly legal to the ethical and moral, it must be returned immediately.”

“We are asking for the SLAM’s cooperation, and if this is not immediately forthcoming we will contact Interpol and start legal proceedings,” Hawass said.

According to records held by the antiquities department, the funerary mask of Ka-Nefer- Nefer was discovered in 1952 by Egyptologist Zakaria Goneim while he was excavating the area of the unfinished Step Pyramid of the Third-Dynasty ruler Sekhemkhet on the Saqqara necropolis. Along with many other finds from the excavation, the mask was placed in the so-called Sekhemkhet magazine situated to the south of the pyramid of Unas. This and all the contents of the magazine were the property of what was then called the Egyptian Antiquities Authority.

Goneim published the discovery in his 1957 book The Buried Pyramid, which also contained illustrations showing him and the mask in situ.

According to the Saqqara inspectorate records, which are well documented, the Ka- Nefer-Nefer mask and other objects discovered during Goneim’s excavations were taken to the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square for a special exhibition. A trawl through the museum’s documents, however, has produced no evidence that the splendid mask ever entered the Egyptian Museum. Moreover, it was found that several of the other objects discovered by Goneim that had been sent immediately to the museum were stored unregistered until 1972. Goneim himself died in 1959, and from that year there was no mention of the mask in official records until in 2006 when Ton Cremers, the Dutch moderator of the online Museum Security Mailing List, raised a question about the provenance of the funerary mask in St Louis by sending an open letter to the SLAM’s director, Brent Benjamin, requesting information as to how the mask had made its way into the museum’s collection. He attached a letter from Maarten J Raven, a curator at the Rijksmuseum Van Oudheden in Leiden and joint field director of the Dutch excavations in Saqqara, verifying what was written in the Egyptian documents.

In his e-mail, which was published on the Internet, Raven said that the Saqqara storehouse or magazine, which also served as a repository for numerous finds from the Anglo- Dutch excavations organised by the Egypt Exploration Society in London and the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, had been entered by force and plundered in 1985. “It is unknown to me whether the Egyptian authorities communicated this theft at the time. I myself have seen an object from the mentioned storeroom circulating on the Dutch art market in the early 1990s. I would not be surprised if various institutions and private collectors have purchased objects from this storeroom during this period,” Raven wrote in his e- mail.

He continued that after the theft the storehouse had been partly dismantled by the local authorities and all its contents relocated to another storehouse at the edge of the Saqqara valley.

The question raised by Cremers attracted the attention of several archaeologists and people concerned with this and similar issues. Among them was Michel Van Rijin, a self-appointed art-world watchdog, who in turn published Cremers’s piece of information on his website and contacted the SLAM. He also sent e-mails to the Egyptian authorities and to international journalists and newspapers, including the Weekly.

Rijin’s website alleged that the SLAM had purchased a stolen artefact from the Phoenix Art Gallery run by the Aboutaam brothers, one of whom, Ali Aboutaam, has already been convicted in absentia by the Egyptian courts for art theft and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment as part of the El-Seweissi trial two years ago.

“The half-a-million-dollar cartonnage mask was stolen from the Saqqara storehouse to order and was subsequently sold by the Aboutaams in 1998 to the SLAM, where it remains to this day, a hostage against the prevailing laws on cultural patrimony,” Rijin said on his web page. To support his claim, Rijin published Raven’s e-mail.

Brent Benjamin dismisses the accusation, and told Hawass in a letter of response, of which the Weekly has obtained a copy, that the SLAM had great respect for Hawass and the SCA and was prepared further to investigate the claim that the mummy mask was stolen. He also pointed out that before buying such a revered object, the museum had carried out extensive research on its provenance and had confirmed that it was not plundered from Egypt.

According to the SLAM’s documents and research over its ownership before it arrived in the possession of the museum, the mask was part of the Kaloterna private collection during the 1960s before a Croatian collector, Zusi Jelinek bought it in Switzerland and later sold it to Phoenix Ancient Art of New York in 1995. They in turn sold it to the SLAM in 1998.

Now that a US court has ruled in the SLAM’s favour, this is where the case rests.

Ka Nefer Nefer Collecting History (V): Meanwhile…

http://paul-barford.blogspot.com/2012/04/ka-nefer-nefer-collecting-history-v.html

April 15, 2012
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The two variant versions of the collecting history most clearly clash in the period when the SLAM-promoted version has it in the possession of Zuzi Jelinek in Geneva. While the documentation supplied to the museum at the time of purchase by the dealer trying to sell it presents it as being in the Jelinek collection (see the earlier post on this and the house in which it was said to have been held), other documentation has it somewhere else.When the alarm about the mask’s whereabouts was initially raised, by Michel Van Rijn (whose previous flamboyant stay in St Louis is discussed here) and Ton Cremers they publicised an email by Marten Raven who drew attention to thefts from the storerooms at Saqqara, and more specifically the Sekhemkhet magazine to the south of the pyramid of Unas  there. This is the one where the mummy mask would have been held if it was still in Egypt. The storeroom contained finds from the Anglo-Dutch excavations (organised by the Egypt Exploration Society in London and the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden), was looted after the 1985 season. Dr Raven, witnessed the damage to the warehouse first-hand. After this theft, the storage facility was dismantled and the remaining contents relocated. This was the basis for the initial demands that St Louis Museum presented more information supporting its claim of rightful ownership (open letter to St Louis Art Museum director Brent Benjamin requesting information about how the mask had made its way into the museum collection). This is discussed in the February 2006 article: Kaufman, Jason E. 2006a. “This mask belongs to Egypt”, Art Newspaper no 167, March, 4 (reply: Kaufman, Jason E. 2006b. “’This mask is ours’ says St Louis Art Museum”, Art Newspaper no 170, June, 5).
There seems to be some confusion about what should be in those Saqqara magazines. We recall Goneim’s problems were caused by the lack of proper documentation in the 1950s about what was where (he was falsely accused of having let objects be stolen from Saqqara, which later turned up in Cairo). When the mask’s collecting history began to be discussed more widely, Zahi Hawass was less clear than he was later about what had happened to the mask since its excavation in 1922. He is quoted in the article “This mask belongs in Egypt” as saying:

“The mask of Ka-nefer-nefer was excavated by Dr Goneim in 1952 and then, like most excavation finds, stored in the Saqqara warehouse, as property of the SCA. It was never, to my knowledge, brought to the Cairo Museum [where finds from Saqqara were sometimes stored]. Therefore, it was…stolen from the storeroom and certainly left Egypt illegally.”

Certainly there were later thefts from the storerooms. Two alabaster vessels in the form of trussed ducks (excavated by the German Archaeological Institute at Dahshur in 1979 and stored in Saqqara) were returned to Egypt in 2008, one by Christie’s Auction House, New York, and the other by Rupert Wace Ancient Art Ltd., London (who had earlier acquired it from the Piasa auction house – but see here see herePiasa auction house in Paris). Two additional vessels remain missing. Nevine El-Aref (‘Safe and coming home‘, Al Ahram Weekly, 29 May – 4 June 2008) reports the return in 2008 of another Saqqara artefact, a green 19th-Dynasty ushabti figure of a woman named Hener (removed from sale by auction with the help of Egypt’s ambassador to Holland, and in custody in the Leiden Museum following an Amsterdam court verdict). This had been excavated in Saqqara in 1985 by a team from Leiden University. In the SCA account of this piece we get the fuller history of what was determined after 2006:

It was stolen from the Sekhemkhet Magazine at Saqqara in 1987, along with a number of other pieces. This theft was not discovered until an inventory of the magazine in 1995.

It seems though that the Egyptian authorities ascertained that the Ka Nefer Nefer mask had not been among the objects stolen in 1987. They knew that the batch of objects from Goneim’s excavations in which the mask should be included were in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo at the time of the Saqqara theft. But the mask was not among them (this was used initially by SLAM to support their claim that the object had never been in that collection – because, they suggest, it had been awarded to the excavator in 1952). This is what excavator of Saqqara Maarten Raven said in 2006. By 2008 it was being stated by the Egyptian authorities that the object had gone missing in 1959 (when Ka-nefer-nefer’s funerary mask, along with a number of other objects from Goneim’s excavations, was transported from the Saqqara storerooms to the Cairo Museum en route to Tokyo for inclusion in an exhibition that was never mounted). This is the account given on the March 2009 webpage of the Cultural Heritage Resource of the Stanford Archaeology Center
SLAM demanded documentation of the presence of the mask in the Egyptian collections, and in response the Egyptian authorities sent a copy of such a document. I am not clear when it was sent, but it is referred to in a text of October 2008 (‘St. Louis museum proud of its ancient mask purchase, but Egypt calls it a steal‘, New York Times 24 oct 2008):

Ghoneim registered his discovery in the official ledger at the government warehouse, or magazine, at Saqqara. The page in the ledger book, a key document Egypt has presented to St. Louis to stake its claim, shows a high-quality photograph of the mask, the finder’s name and ID number, and a detailed description.

[Most other accounts of the existence of this ledger date from the end of November 2008]. I understand there is no mention in that register that the object was officially deaccessioned.Obviously SLAM must hold the position that the Saqqara ledger page they were shown is a later fake. They have offered no proof however that would stand in a court of law that this is the case.

The Stanford Archaeology Center webpage shows what the state-of-play was in March 2009:

H[awass] produced documentation to show that it had been registered as the property of the Egyptian government by 1953, and that in 1959 it had been transported from storage in Saqqara to Cairo for display in the Egyptian Museum. Unfortunately, there is no documentation to show that the mask ever arrived in Cairo, and the assumption is that it must have been stolen sometime after 1959. Nevertheless, this would have been seven years after the mask is alleged to have been on the European antiquities market.

Subsequent to 2008 new information turned up (the records of transport movements will be on paper in those pre-computer days and we have seen recently just how many problems the Egyptian Museum in Cairo is having dealing with its records) which showed that the object did not disappear in 1959. This is significant, because of course an object disappearing in 1959 could appear in the Jelinek collection in Geneva (and indeed the Kaloterna collection in Zagreb) in “the early 1960s”.The SCA “missing artefacts” website summarises the newly-emerged facts (this was last updated 26 may 2011, but it is unclear when these new facts were added)

In 1959, Ka-nefer-nefer’s funerary mask, along with a number of other objects from Goneim’s excavations, was transported from the Saqqara storerooms to the Cairo Museum en route to Tokyo for inclusion in an exhibition that was never mounted. It was returned [to] Saqqara, and then sent to the antiquities department conservation lab attached to the Egyptian Museum in 1966. In 1973, many of the objects from the burial of Ka-nefer-nefer were registered at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. The mask was not among these objects; since it was the most important object in the assemblage, we can infer that it was missing by that time.

On page 2 of Judge Autrey’s dismissal of the case we read:

To support its legal conclusion that the Mask was stolen, the Government alleges that the Mask was excavated at Saqqara, Eqypt, in 1952, placed in storage in Saqqara following its excavation where it remained until 1959, and then was “packed for shipping” to Cairo, Egypt, in preparation for an exhibit in Tokyo,Japan. The complaint further states that the Mask was “received by police guards” in Cairo in July of 1959, but instead of traveling to Tokyo, it remained in Cairo until 1962 when it was transferred back to Saqqara. The verified complaint further states that the Mask was removed from Saqqara in 1966 and “traveled” to Cairo in “box number fifty-four,” the “last documented location of the Mask in Egypt.” The complaint then goes on to state that in 1973, an inventory was taken of box number fifty-four, whereupon it was discovered the Mask was “missing.”

On the basis of those facts (ie treated as such) he then sees no grounds for accepting the object was stolen. The point is however if we accept that the mask was in a box in Egypt as late as 1966, this cannot be squared with it having been in the Kaloterna and then Jelinek collections in “the early 1960s”. If we accept that fact, the letter Ms Jelinek wrote to Hicham Aboutaam in 1997 no longer has any evidential value. It states things which are not in accord with other facts.So have the Egyptians and US government just made up “box 54”? This is what SLAM would have to assert – but then accusing a fellow museum of falsifying the records, they really ought to have better proof than the fact that they have in their files a single letter by Ms Jelinek (reportedly Aboutaam’s landlady, somebody not known to have collected any antiquities of this class, and stating facts reportedly contradicted by her own son). [They also have the Charly Mathez letter – more on that later]

 

Mr Aboutaam Buys, and Sells, a Mummy Mask

http://paul-barford.blogspot.com/2012/04/mr-aboutaam-buys-and-sells-mummy-mask.html

April 15, 2012
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St Louis Art Museum bought a mummy mask  from Phoenix Ancient Art (Invoice to the Saint Louis Art Museum dated March 12, 1998 in SLAM document files). They had been supplied by the seller with a collecting history which seemed acceptable to them at the time, placing it in two central European collections in the early 1960s. Further information was supplied a few months after the purchase (the 4th October 1999 correspondence between  Sidney Goldstein and Peter Lacovara) which seemed to be evidence that it had been on the European market even earlier, in 1952. The object entered the collection at the end of March 1998 (Accession Number: 19:1998).I have not seen it explicitly stated whose name is on that invoice. This would be worth checking. Phoenix Ancient Art is a family business. It was started in 1968 in Beirut by the Lebanese dealer Sleiman Aboutaam, a wealthy Lebanese businessman who reportedly had amassed a fortune through an exclusive contract to supply general merchandise to oil tankers in the Kuwaiti port of Al Ahmadi (Ron Stodghill, ‘Do You Know Where That Art Has Been?‘, New York Times March 18, 2007). Phoenix Ancient Art (incorporated since 1995) continues today under the leadership of his sons, Hicham Aboutaam and Ali Aboutaam.  The younger son (born 1968) having finished studying art history at the University of Michigan began working in father’s business before 1998. The galleries changed hands when Sleiman Aboutaam and his wife were sadly among the 229 people who died on board Swissair flight 111 (from JFK New York to Geneva) which crashed six months after the Ka Nefer Nefer mask sale on 2nd September 1998 in the Atlantic off Nova Scotia. Hicham then took over running the New York gallery  and his older brother Ali began running the Geneva gallery. They obviously inherited all their father’s stock and documentation.

The possibility therefore exists that the person who was responsible for taking the mask of Ka Nefer Nefer to the US and selling it to the St Louis Art Museum was Sleiman Aboutaam (and therefore we might expect his name to be on the invoice – whether or not it is, St Louis Art Museum has declined to tell us, and that turns out to be rather an interesting circumstance). This would however explain why there are some questions about it that Hicham and Ali are not in a position to answer. Anyway, the SLAM collecting history tells us:

by 1997 – 1998 Phoenix Art, S.A. (Hicham Aboutaam), Geneva, Switzerland, purchased from private collection [5]

and the footnote 5 to which it refers reads:

[…] [Which?] Aboutaam also states that the mask was in the United States from 1995 until 1997, possibly indicating that it was in the possession of the New York branch of Phoenix Ancient Art, S.A. during that time [letter, September 23, 1997, SLAM document files].

[Other texts accept that the object was indeed in the US in 1995, for example one of the earliest, StLToday, ‘Art museum sues to keep Egyptian mummy mask‘, but also 38 other accounts generated only in the last ten days].  So it seems from this that the Aboutaams’ purchase and export of the item took place some time before the end of 1995 (remember Zuzi Jelinek’s “many, many years ago”?). It is unclear to whom the Aboutaams offered this object. The letter of September 23rd 1997 [who its author was is not stated] seems to be the first approach of Aboutaam to the SLAM mentioned in the information we have. In subsequent documentation Hicham, not Slieman is noted as having bought the object, and having bought it in Geneva. Footnotes [3] to [5] in the SLAM collecting history give us the information from the SLAM document files about the “anonymous Swiss collector” that was stated at the time of purchase to have been the person from whom the Aboutaams had acquired the object:

In a letter of July 2, 1997, addressed to Hicham Aboutaam, the Swiss collector stated that this acquisition took place in the early 1960s . […] The Swiss collector requested anonymity […] The Swiss collector’s letter of July 2, 1997 confirms the sale of the mask to Aboutaam [SLAM document files].

One or other of the Aboutaams apparently had the mask in the USA since 1995, but only in July 1997 did Hicham Aboutaam get an “I sold you…” letter from a person reportedly his former landlady in order to provide provenance (presumably – since no such material seems to have been passed to SLAM – having no other documentation in hand confirming the sale). Why was this letter not written earlier?  Or were there other letters previous to this?But look at this:

[3] In a letter dated March 19, 1998 [so a week AFTER the stated date of issue of the invoice for the purchase!], Hicham Aboutaam indicated that an anonymous Swiss collector acquired the mask from the Kaloterna (possibly Kaliterna) family.

It is odd that this suggests that this information is not offered in the July 2nd letter confirming (nota bene) the provenance of the object. Why did this information (apparently) only appear in writing eight and a half months AFTER Zuzi Jelinek wrote that letter and after, it seems, the SLAM had already decided to buy the object? What purpose did providing that additional information serve in March 1998?While the Charly Mathez letter (intimating that the object was on the market in 1952) is dated “February 11, 1997”, but was only shown to the Museum well after the purchase.

Setting out in chronological order how the information obtainable from the material in the public domain about the collecting history as reconstructed by the Aboutaams emerged is quite an interesting exercise – but one I leave up to the reader to attempt, and then draw their own conclusions.

April 14th, 2012

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers, Saint Louis Art Museum

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April 13th, 2012

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers

St Louis Art Museum “Looking After” Ka Nefer Nefer?

http://paul-barford.blogspot.com/2012/04/st-louis-art-museum-looking-after-ka.html

April 8, 2012
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Just how well-looked after is the Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask in St Louis Art Museum? I was struck by an old photo of the object, which gave the face a very apprehensive look. I then tried to find out where it had come from and found another photo, similar but not the same on Zahi Hawass’ blog. But then I noticed something else about Hawass’ photo. Take a look at the official SLAM photos accompanying the joyous news that they will (for the moment at least) continue to take care of this object for the Egyptian people – to whom it rightfully belongs in their building-site-which-was-a-museum.  Take a look at the mask’s right shoulder (on our left) which is perfectly well-lit in Hawass’ photo. Notice what appears to be a missing chunk of gesso (resin)? Note on the Hawass photo the clear signs of scraping on the wrist on the right hand side which is where the hieratic inscription, “the Osiris Neferu” has been scraped off (Johnston says its the “left” hand, but the scraping is visible on the right)

 

Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues: St Louis Art Museum .

April 8th, 2012

Posted In: Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues, Saint Louis Art Museum

United States Files Motion in SLAM Mummy Mask Case

http://culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com/2012/04/united-states-files-motion-in-slam.html

April 7, 2012

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in St. Louis filed a motion today in response to a federal district court’s

ruling earlier this week dismissing the government’s forfeiture complaint against the Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask located at the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM).  The prosecutor asks the court for an extension of time to file a motion for reconsideration of the court’s decision or to file an amended complaint.

The federal district court for the eastern district of Missouri on March 31, 2012 dismissed the government’s action, saying that the complaint failed to allege specific enough facts to support a claim for forfeiture.  The government’s response today sets the stage to either file a revised complaint that meets the court’s articulated demands or to appeal the court’s dismissal order if a motion to reconsider the decision proves unsuccessful. The prosecutor asks for extended time to pursue these objectives because he states, in part, that he is in a trial expected to last through April 20.

CONTACT: www.culturalheritagelawyer.com

Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire: United States Files Motion in SLAM Mummy Mask Case.

April 7th, 2012

Posted In: Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire, Saint Louis Art Museum

implications for Swiss dealer

http://lootingmatters.blogspot.com/2012/04/st-louis-art-museum-mask-implications.html

April 6, 2012

I have noted earlier this week that the collecting history (“provenance”) for the Egyptian mummy mask acquired by the St Louis Art Museum was seemingly flawed. It cannot have been given to the excavator (who died in 1959). It cannot have been in Brussels in 1952. It cannot have been in the “Kaloterna collection” in 1962. The reason for this is the apparently undisputed statement that the mask was known to be in Egypt in 1966 andrecorded in Cairo.

The collecting history for the mask was allegedly supplied by the vendor, Phoenix Ancient Art. One of the owners of the gallery apparently supportsthe repatriation of antiquities to the country of origin. What was the basis for the mask’s collecting history as supplied by Phoenix Ancient Art? Who created the collecting history?

It now appears that SLAM’s due diligence process prior to the acquisition was flawed. The collecting history, as it was understood at the time of acquisition, no longer appears to be secure.

Will the director of SLAM, who is a member of the AAMD, make the appropriate professional and ethical response by opening up negotiations with the Egyptian authorities?

Looting Matters: St Louis Art Museum Mask: implications for Swiss dealer.

April 6th, 2012

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers, Looting Matters

District Court Dismisses Government’s Case to Forfeit SLAM Mummy Mask

http://culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com/2012/04/district-court-dismisses-governments.html

April 3, 2012

The U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, today published an order dismissing the government’s’ forfeiture complaint against the Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask.  The Egyptian artifact is located at the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM).

The government filed a claim in March 2011 to forfeit the 19th Dynasty Egyptian mummy mask of a noblewoman from SLAM, alleging that it was stolen from Egypt.

Judge Henry Autrey brought the government’s case to a halt after concluding this past Saturday that the federal attorneys failed to specifically articulate how the mask was stolen and smuggled, or how it was brought into the United States “contrary to law.”

Excerpts from the court’s nine page opinion are quoted below with citations omitted:

The Government bases its claim for forfeiture on Section 1595a of Title 19. Section 1595a(c) provides in relevant part:

Merchandise which is introduced or attempted to be introduced into the United States as contrary to law shall be treated as follows: (1) the merchandise shall be seized and forfeited if it – (A) is stolen, smuggled, or clandestinely imported or introduced.

In order to exercise the seizure and forfeiture of the Mask, the statute requires pleading the following: (1) facts relevant to whether the Mask was “stolen, smuggled or clandestinely imported or introduced” and (2) facts related to some predicate unlawful offense, presumably a law with some “nexus” to international commerce from which the Title 19 customs regulation arises. The Government’s verified complaint lacks both of these pleading prerequisites. Indeed, the verified complaint fails to state sufficiently detailed facts to support a reasonable belief that the government will be able to meet its burden of proof at trial.

The verified complaint does not provide a factual statement of theft, smuggling, or clandestine importation. Rather, the complaint merely states that the Mask was found to be “missing” from Egypt in 1973. Although the Government alleges, in a conclusory fashion, that “the register did not document that the Mask was sold or given to a private party during the time frame of 1966 to 1973,” the complaint is completely devoid of any facts showing that the Mask was “missing” because it was stolen and then smuggled out of the country. The closest the Government comes to any type of allegation of theft or smuggling is in paragraphs 19 and 20 of the complaint, which note that in 2006 “the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities became aware that the Mask was accessioned by the Saint Louis Art Museum . . . and [t]o date, the Saint Louis Art Museum has refused to return the Mask.” The Government’s legal conclusion, in paragraph 22 of the verified complaint, that “[b]ecause the Mask was stolen, it could not have been lawfully exported from Egypt or lawfully imported into the United States,” misses a number of factual and logical steps, namely: (1) an assertion that the Mask was actually stolen; (2) factual circumstances relating to when the Government believes the Mask was stolen and why; (3) facts relating to the location from which the Mask was stolen; (4) facts regarding who the Government believes stole the Mask; and (5) a statement or identification of the law which the Government believes applies under which the Mask would be considered stolen and/or illegally exported.

The Government cannot simply rest on its laurels and believe that it can initiate a civil forfeiture proceeding on the basis of one bold assertion that because something went missing from one party in 1973 and turned up with another party in 1998, it was therefore stolen and/or imported or exported illegally. The Government is required under the pleading standards set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to provide specific facts, or plead “with such particularity,” that the claimant will be able, without moving for a more definite statement, to commence an investigation of the facts and to frame a responsive pleading. As it now stands, claimant cannot even be sure of the who, what, when or where of the alleged events surrounding the alleged “stealing,” nor can the Museum ascertain if the Government is pursuing seizure of the Mask based on an alleged theft or a unlawful import/export, or both. (The Court presumes that the Government is not accusing any unnamed parties of clandestinely smuggling the Mask out of Egypt and into the United States; however, given the lack of specificity in the verified complaint, perhaps the Court should not make any assumptions on the Government’s behalf.)

Additionally, as noted previously, the Government has been completely remiss in addressing the law under which the Mask would be considered stolen. The phrase “contrary to law” under § 1595a refers to how merchandise, such as the Mask, is introduced in the United States illegally, unlawfully, or in a manner conflicting with established law. The Government has completely failed to identify, in its verified complaint, the established law that was violated when the Mask was purportedly brought illegally into the United States or purportedly stolen from Egypt or some other undisclosed party, and it has failed to provide any facts relating to the time period surrounding these supposed events. Thus, the Government’s verified complaint fails to assert specific facts supporting an inference that the Mask is subject to forfeiture.

April 3rd, 2012

Posted In: looting and illegal art traffickers