• Art Crime

    Author : Criminal Defense Associates September 1, 2018

    White collar crime comes in many forms. Many times, people think of white-collar crimes as securities fraud or tax evasion. But white collar crimes happen outside the purview of the Securities and Exchange Commission or the IRS, such as in the art world.

    Bac in 2016, a New York art dealer, Nancy Wiener, was arrested and charged with possessing and selling stolen artifacts from countries across Asia. She was accused of smuggling and laundering millions of dollars'worth of ancient effects stolen from various countries, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, and Thailand. Wiener's gallery was known as one of the most prestigious and recognized art galleries in Manhattan which featured Asian art. The schemes in which she participated seem fit for a Hollywood movie.

    For example, in 1999, Wiener is accused of selling an Indian sandstone culture from the second century to Singapore’s Asian Civilisations Museum. A few years later, the museum requested documents pertaining to the sculpture’s origin. Winer stated first that an unnamed European collector had had it for the last 3-4 decades. But then, she claimed her father had gotten it in India, and then she provided the name of someone that she said she bought from when he lived in Vietnam in the 1960’s. She later sold a second Buddha statue to the National Gallery of Australia in 2007 for over $1 million, claiming to have purchased it from a man in Hong Kong in the 1960's. of these stories were true. Apparently, what is true is that some of the artifacts Wiener had have been allegedly smuggled into the country by Subhash Kapoor, an art dealer in Manhattan who was on trial in India. This included the Seated Buddha sold to the Australian gallery, which was ultimately returned to India along with various other looted antiquities. Ms. Wiener was arrested for her acts, and her case is apparently still ongoing.

    Art dealing is one of the last great frontiers, often ripe for white collar criminals to abuse and exploit. This past March, the Department of Justice filed an indictment in federal court in Brooklyn against four corporations and six individuals who are accused of engaging in over $50 million of international securities fraud and a money laundering scheme using the attempted sale of a Picasso painting. Because purchasing art is a free market and highly unregulated, the defendants attempted to ‘clean' their illegal proceeds by purchasing multiple paintings. One of the individuals basically allowed a man (who happened to be an undercover agent) to purchase the painting for $6.7 million, and he would keep it for a period of tie. Then, the painting would be sold further on, at the direction of the defendants, and the proceeds of that sale would be transferred back to the agent in a bank in the United States.

    Using art as a cover for illegal activities, and selling illicit art itself has become a new focus for Manhattan D.A., who has formed a dedicated antiquities trafficking unit to deal with the wave of illegal antiquities making their way to New York. He claims that since 2012, the D.A.'s office has helped recover several thousand illegally trafficked antiquities, valued collectively at over $150 million. Law enforcement faces difficulties in monitoring art sales, due in large part to its unregulated nature.

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