Saturday, October 03, 2015

No specialist prosecutors for antiquities/terrorism cases: a major stumbling block

Those who have been applauding ICE's ceremonies returning seized artifacts should instead be booing. They don't understand that every such public relations event that doesn't also include announcements of arrests and indictments is a lost opportunity and a symptom that the Obama administration has failed to devote the resources needed to really tackle the black market in antiquities.

This is made clear in a very informative blogpost from cultural heritage lawyer Rick St.-Hilaire laying out in very damning detail the failure of the Obama administration's Justice Department to follow through on an antiquities smuggling case in 2011 that involved suspected money laundering tied to terrorism.  Instead, the artifacts were returned in a DC photo-op ceremony.

As St.-Hilaire notes,
A specially assigned heritage trafficking prosecutor based at the Department of Justice in Washington probably could have facilitated this search warrant request by coordinating with the appropriate right U.S. Attorney's office. But no such specialist prosecutor exists.
Maybe I just missed it -- and if so, will one of the readers of this blog please ease my mind -- but I don't recall hearing from ICE or the Department of Justice during last week's various policy events. The announcement of a reward for information leading to the disruption of terrorist-related antiquities-smuggling networks might indicate some movement in the direction of a heritage trafficking prosecution. But a dedicated prosecutor is long overdue. The Department of Homeland Security's budget is only $55 billion though, so perhaps they cannot afford one.

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