ICE Busts Egyptian Antiquity Smuggling Ring

Posted on July 26, 2011


On July 13, 2011, US federal prosecutors announced they were charging antiquities dealers in New York, Michigan, and Dubai in connection with operating an international antiquities smuggling ring.  The ring smuggled Egyptian artifacts into the US, including several sarcophagi.  In a news release, ICE explained:

As alleged in the indictment, from approximately October 2008 until approximately November 2009, the defendants, together with others, engaged in a scheme to smuggle cultural antiquities into the United States. As part of the smuggling scheme, [Joseph] Lewis allegedly purchased a Greco-Roman style Egyptian sarcophagus, a nesting set of three Egyptian sarcophagi, a set of Egyptian boats and Egyptian limestone figures (collectively, “Egyptian antiquities”) from [Mousa] Khouli, who purchased those items from [Salem] Alshdaifat and [Ayman] Ramadan. Each of these antiquities was exported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and smuggled into the United States.

James Hayes, special agent-in-charge with ICE explained:

This is a groundbreaking case for Homeland Security Investigations — it is the first time an alleged cultural property network has been dismantled within the United States. In addition to smuggling cultural property, this case also focuses on significant money-laundering activity. This is notable because the illicit sale of cultural property is the third most profitable black market industry following narcotics and weapons trafficking.

Read the ICE news release or, for more a more scintillating account (that includes coverage of the history of mummy trafficking), check out NY Mummy Smugglers Reveal Vast Antiquities Black Market on Live Science.