Uncle Sam Seizes Ancient Egyptian Art

     BROOKLYN (CN) – The federal government seized five ancient Egyptian artifacts dating back to 2,000 B.C. on their way from Dubai to a Michigan antique dealer.
     The United States filed the federal complaint in rem against the five art objects, two of them inscribed with hieroglyphs.
     The artifacts are the only defendants in the complaint.
     They were purchased from the Hassan Fazeli Trading Company in Dubai by Salem Alshdaifat, who “sells ancient coins and other antiques” online through a business called Holyland Numismatics, according to the complaint.
     U.S. Customs seized the package, sent by FedEx, as it entered the country through Newark International Airport in August 2010.
     The Customs officer became suspicious because the invoice identified the items as “Ancient Egyptian,” but listed the country of manufacture as Turkey.
     Inside the package, lo and behold, were, one limestone fragment with a sunken relief carving “depicting a procession of offering bearers;” a seated figure of gray schist “with his knees drawn up before himself;” a limestone fragment carved with “the arms of offering bearers and their offerings;” a fragment of “a male figure with a plaited wig;” and a “carved wooden funerary model of a boat, multiple oars, and seven carved figures of kneeling oarsmen,” that was “gessoed and painted.”
     National Appraisal Consultants appraised the items at $57,000 – four times the $17,500 that Holyland paid, according to the complaint.
     The appraised estimated the artifacts dated from 343 B.C., or the Late Period, to 2081 B.C., during the Middle Kingdom.
     The boat was appraised as most valuable: $20,000.
     A 1983 Egyptian “Law on the Protection of Antiques” considers all objects more than 100 years old to be “property of the State of Egypt that cannot be privately owned, possessed or disposed of without state permission,” which makes the five artifacts stolen property, Uncle Sam says.
     When he was notified that the objects had been seized, Alshdaifat filed a petition claiming he “conducted his due diligence” to ensure the artifacts “were not stolen from Egypt,” and that they had come from a private collection, according to the complaint.
     But the government claims that Fazeli, the exporter, admitted to a confidential source that he often “lists incorrect countries of origin to circumvent cultural patrimony and export laws. In particular, Fazeli acknowledged that he often supplied ‘Turkey’ as the country of origin because he had Turkish papers that he could use.”
     Uncle Sam says the art is “liable to condemnation and to forfeiture to the United States.”
     Presumably, the goods will be returned to Egypt.

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