A smuggling ring has been detained by United States officials recently, and charged with smuggling Egyptian artifacts which date back as far as 7th Century BC. Four men were charged with the offences, which occurred between October 2008 and November 2009, in addition to charges of money laundering.
Zahi Hawaas, Egypt’s minister of antiquities provided experts to assist in the authentication process of the antiquities. In a written statement, he said:
“This is one of the largest and most significant cases of antiquities smuggling in recent memory.”
It is alleged that Mr Joseph Lewis, who lives in New York and is an avid collector of Egyptian antiquities, collaborated with three other dealers – two from the US and one from Dubai. Together they managed to smuggle an assortment of various items from Egypt to the US, with the collection estimated to be worth $2.5 million. According to James T Hayes, special agent, antiques which have been trafficked have usually been stolen from the owners, and if the gang are convicted the antiquities will be charged to the US government until the owners are traced.
The network of smugglers was only identified by chance, as Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents investigated a different piece which was for sale online.
When purchasing antiques, whether it’s ancient Egyptian or Victorian dining chairs , it is essential to buy from a reputable antiques dealer, who can identify and authenticate each piece with proof of ownership. Experts in the antique trade are calling for improved regulation to halt illegal trading of antiques.
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