Costa Rican Archaeologist with Dodgy History Acquitted of Smuggling

Posted on October 24, 2013


Leonard PattersonCosta Rican citizen and Munich resident Leonard Patterson has been acquitted of charges of attempting to smuggle 1,400 pieces of pre-Columbian art from Spain to Germany. The Latin-American Herald Tribune report is reproduced below, although the Spanish website El Universal has a much more detailed (and interesting) version of the story. Of particular interest are Patterson’s past attempts at selling a fake Mayan artifact (I think it was a frieze, but may be lost in translation) and trying to smuggle protected sea turtle eggs. He dreams of building a museum in Europe and a resort in Costa Rica. He sounds like a very interesting man, to say the least.

From El Universal, a Google translate version of the original article in Spanish can be found here in English.

And from the Tribune:

A Costa Rican citizen accused of illegally exporting some 1,400 pieces of pre-Columbian art was acquitted by a court in this northwestern Spanish city, his attorney told Efe on Tuesday.

Prosecutors sought a two-year prison term and a fine of 60 million euros ($81 million) for Leonard Patterson in a case involving pieces valued at 53.5 million euros ($73 million).

The court found no proof showing that the antiquities belonged “to the Spanish Historical Heritage,” defense lawyer Ramon Sabin said.

The deeds that were considered to be proven do not constitute any crime, the judge found.

During the trial, both the accused and his attorney tried to show that the regional government of Galicia took charge of the arrival of the collection in Spain and that nobody warned Patterson of the need to ask permission of the Culture Ministry to return the pieces to Germany, where he lives.

The pre-Columbian antiquities at the heart of the case were exhibited at several different venues in Santiago de Compostela and then placed in the warehouses of the Boquete moving company, where they remained in a secure room for a decade until March 2008.

At that time, Patterson – the prosecution said – committed the crime of smuggling the art by ordering the collection to be transferred to Munich.