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26-01-08, 03:46 PM #1Paknam Web Online Staff
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Police raid US museums for smuggled artifacts from Thailand
Police raid US museums for smuggled artiefacts from Thailand
A suspected smuggler allegedly boasted he had more items from the Ban Chiang area than Thailand itself
Government agents raided many museums in California on Friday in search of antiquities believed to have been illegally obtained and smuggled into the US from Thailand and China, Southeast countries including Thailand, the Guardian online reported.
Four museums in southern California were involved: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena and the Mingei International Museum in San Diego.
Authorities said one scheme involved the owner of a Los Angeles art gallery who worked with a smuggler over five years to import artefacts from Thailand and China, offering them as charitable contributions and then attempting to claim the donations as tax write-offs by boosting their value.
In some cases, museum officials initially questioned how the artefacts were obtained but eventually accepted them. According to officials, some artefacts passed through US customs because they had "Made in Thailand" labels affixed to them, making it appear they were replicas, the online reported.
Michael Govan, director and chief executive officer of LACMA, estimated that about 60 items donated to the museum over the past decade have come under suspicion.
"They were seemingly quite regular objects to be gifted," Govan said, adding that the museum is cooperating with the investigation.
"They came from sources who were members of the museum for many years and regular donors, so no, there was no reason for the museum to know ahead of time."
The warrants stem from an undercover investigation by a National Park Service special agent who posed as a collector.
The agent targeted Robert Olson, who is alleged to be a smuggler, and Jonathan Markell, who co-owns an Asian art gallery in Los Angeles with his wife.
Olson, 79, allegedly boasted to the agent he had more items from the Ban Chiang area than Thailand itself, according to an affidavit.
Court documents said Olson, Markell and the agent met more than a dozen times and regularly emailed and called one another about the "sale, importation, and donation of stolen archaeological resources from China and Thailand and antiquities illegally imported from Burma."
Some of the calls and meetings were recorded, the warrants said. The documents quoted Markell as saying that "people who had been caught had to have done something stupid."
The investigation is the latest public relations blow for US museums that have been accused by foreign governments of housing treasures stolen from their countries. Italy has been negotiating with various institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, to have various antiquities returned.
Authorities said no arrests had been made and no charges had been filed.
by the Guardian online
27-01-08, 10:03 AM #2Senior Member
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Re: Police raid US museums for smuggled artifacts from Thailand
Where is Peterg. He'd have an insight on this issue. Customs folk are every day people. They are not qualified to appraise value on objects. Until accurate inventory and inspection is done on every shipment from countries, including the USA, no one will ever know what is being, (really) being ) transported.
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