The International Enforcement Law Reporter

The International Enforcement Law Reporter is a monthly print and online journal covering news and trends in international enforcement law.

Since September 1985, the International Enforcement Law Reporter has analyzed the premier developments in both the substantive and procedural aspects of international enforcement law. Read by practitioners, academics, and politicians, the IELR is a valuable guide to the difficult and dynamic field of international law.

Close Allies of Liberian President Resign After US Corruption Accusations

Friday, September 16, 2022
Author: 
Alex Mostaghimi
Volume: 
38
Issue: 
9
Abstract: 

On September 12, Liberian President George Weah accepted the resignations of two of three senior officials following corruption allegations levied against all of them by the United States.  On August 15, the Department of the Treasury announced the imposition of sanctions on Nathanial McGill, Weah’s Chief of Staff, Sayma Syrenius Cephus, Chief Prosecutor of Liberia, and Bill Twehway, the Managing Director of the National Port Authority.[1]



[1] Treasury Sanctions Senior Liberian Government Officials for Public Corruption, TREASURY, August 15, 2022 https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0921.

 

U.S. Unseals Indictment Charging Three Iranian Nationals with Hacking and Extortion

Friday, September 16, 2022
Author: 
Bruce Zagaris
Volume: 
38
Issue: 
9
Abstract: 

On September 14, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed the unsealing of indictments in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey against three Iranian nationals for allegedly devising and implementing a scheme to hack into computer networks of multiple U.S. victims and try to extort money from them.[1]   Simultaneously, the Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned ten individuals, including the three indictees, and two entities for their roles in perpetrating malicious cyber acts, including ransomware activity.[2]



[1]    U.S. Department of Justice, Three Iranian nationals Charged with Engaging in Computer Intrusions and Ransomware-Style Extortion Against U.S. Critical Infrastructure Providers,  Press Rel. No. 22-99, Sept. 14, 2022.

[2]    U.S. Department of Treasury, Treasury Sanctions IRGC-Affiliated Cyber Actors for Roles in Ransomware Activity, Sept. 14, 2022.  https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0948.

 

Latvia Extradites National to the U.S. for Securities Fraud in Cryptocurrency Scheme

Friday, September 16, 2022
Author: 
Bruce Zagaris
Volume: 
38
Issue: 
9
Abstract: 

On August 26, 2022, Latvia extradited Ivars Auzins, a citizen of Latvia, to the United States to answer a six-count indictment charging him with wire fraud, securities fraud, and conspiracies to commit wire fraud and securities fraud in connection with the operation of eight companies purporting to offer, invest in, or mine digital assets.  Auzins was arraigned in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York on August 27 before Judge Roanne L. Mann.[1]



[1]    U.S. Department of Justice, Latvian Individual Extradited for Securities Fraud and Wire Fraud in Cryptocurrency Scheme, Press Rel. , Aug. 26, 2022;

 

UN Commissioner Alleges Crimes Against Humanity by China Against the Uyghurs

Friday, September 16, 2022
Author: 
Michael Plachta
Volume: 
38
Issue: 
9
Abstract: 

On August 31, 2022, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Mrs. Michelle Bachelet, released a report into what China refers to as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). She has concluded that crimes against humanity against the Uyghur and “other predominantly Muslim communities” have been committed.[1]



* Professor Plachta specializes in criminal law and international criminal law. He has authored numerous publication on a wide range of problems concerning law enforcement and international cooperation in criminal matters. He currently teaches criminal law and European criminal law at the University of Security in Poznan, Poland.

[1] China responsible for ‘serious human rights violations’ in Xinjiang province: UN human rights report, August 31, 2022, https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/08/1125932.

 

U.S. National Pleads Guilty to Wildlife Smuggling and Trafficking

Friday, September 16, 2022
Author: 
Bruce Zagaris
Volume: 
38
Issue: 
9
Abstract: 

On August 24, 2022, Jose Manuel Perez, also known as “Julio Rodriguez,” 30 years of age, pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges for illegally importing into the United States more than 1,700 wild animals, including 60 reptiles found hidden in his clothes earlier this year at the U.S.-Mexico border.  From Oxnard in Ventura County, Perez pleaded guilty to two counts of smuggling goods into the U.S. and one count of wildlife trafficking.[1]



[1]    U.S. Attorney in Central District of California, Oxnard Man Pleads Guilty to Wildlife Smuggling and Trafficking Charges for Illegally Importing More than 1,700 Animals into U.S., Press Release No. 22-164, Aug. 24, 2022.

 

Thailand Extradites Two Marshall Islands Nationals to the U.S. on Corruption Charges

Thursday, September 8, 2022
Author: 
Bruce Zagaris
Volume: 
38
Issue: 
9
Abstract: 

 On September 2, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that two Marshall Island nationals arrived in the U.S. after Thailand extradited them.  Cary Yan, 50, and Gina Zhou, 34, are charged with allegedly violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), money laundering, and conspiracy to commit those offenses with respect to a scheme to bribe elected officials of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) in exchange for enacting certain legislation.  They were expected to make their initial court appearance on September 6 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.[1]



[1]   U.S. Department of Justice, Former Heads of New York-Based Non-Governmental Organization Charged with Bribing elected Officials of the Marshall Islands Extradited to the United States from Thailand, Press Rel. No. 22-945, Sept. 2, 2022.

 

Manhattan D.A. Seizes Another 27 Pieces from the Met on Behalf of Italy and Egypt

Thursday, September 8, 2022
Author: 
Bruce Zagaris
Volume: 
38
Issue: 
9
Abstract: 

On August 31, 2022, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) reported that investigators from the  Manhattan District Attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit (ATU), working with federal officials from the Department of Homeland Security,  have increasingly focused on and seized allegedly stolen art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  On September 3, the New York Times reported that investigators from the Manhattan DA’s ATU [1]seized 27 pieces worth more than $13 million from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, claiming that the objects were stolen and must be returned to Italy and Egypt.[2]

                The Manhattan D.A.’s antiquities trafficking unit, which executed the seizure, was created in 2017 to combat the trafficking of antique objects.  A major purpose of the unit is to recover cultural objects from other countries that do not come with proper province and therefore should be returned to their countries of origin.   The ATU has raided and seized objects from the Met several times before.[3]

                According to the ICIJ, the Manhattan district attorney’s office has secured nine warrants to seize ancient works from the Met since 2017. Six of those warrants are from the past year alone and cover more than 30 ancient relics.[4]

                The Manhattan DA’s Office, in conjunction with the U.S. Government, has scheduled ceremonies for the week of September 12 to return 21 items to Italy and six to Egypt.[5]

Increased Enforcement Efforts against Antiquities Trafficking

                The seizures are significant because they indicate heightened efforts by the ATU to close backlogged repatriation cases and act against the theft, looting, and illicit trafficking of cultural property.[6]

                In June, ATU authorities seized five ancient works from the Met’s Egyptian collection, after an international relics smuggling scandal that saw the former director of the Louvre Museum arrested in France facing conspiracy charges.[7]

                In February, the ATU secured two warrants to seize two allegedly stolen pieces in different Met galleries – a Libyan statue of a veiled woman and an Egyptian bronze sculpture depicting a kneeling figure.[8]

                A problem in terms of the Met’s collection of antiquities is that some of the items seized were obtained from or handled by persons convicted and/or suspected of trafficking in antiquities.  For instance, in 2011, the Italian government, after a decade-long investigation of Gianfranco Becchina for antiquities trafficking, confiscated 6,300 Greco-Roman artifacts from him.  However, a court dismissed the criminal charges on statute of limitation grounds because the looting dated to the early 1970s.   A Greek court convicted Becchina of receiving stolen antiquities.[9]

                The Met obtained one item, a terra-cotta statuette of a Greek goddess from about 400 B.C., as a gift in 2000 from Robin Symes, an antiquities dealer.   Symes participated in the sale of a large statue of Aphrodite bought by the Getty Museum in 1988..  In 2007, the Getty Museum agreed to return it to Italy.[10]

                In terms of value, the 21 Italian objects the ATU seized from the Met in July is estimated at $10 million.  The six Egyptian objects, seized in February and May, are estimated to be worth $3.2 million.[11]

Analysis

                One question is whether the Met and other museums and galleries should conduct more investigation of the provenance of their collection not only when they buy new items, but also when public information reveals that persons involved in the objects which they acquired have been found to have participated in looting.  The Met’s standard policy concerning repatriation requires countries wanting objects repatriated to make a formal request and prove beyond doubt that the objects were looted.  A consensus is starting to develop that museums should be more proactive in checking their collection and provenances of objects, especially in light of new information.[12]

                In this regard, the Met said ”Each of these objects has unique  and complex circumstances, and with all, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has been fully supportive of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office investigations.”  The Met also acknowledged that the norms of collecting have changed and the Met has constantly reviewed its policies and procedures in this regard.[13]  The question is whether the recent seizures will make the Met make a new review of its policies and procedures.

                The ATU partnered in the seizures and returns with HSI. U.S. federal customs laws provide HSI special agents the authority, jurisdiction, and responsibility to take the leading role in criminal investigations that involve the illicit importation and distribution of stolen or looted cultural property. Through the Cultural Property, Art, and Antiquities program (CPAA), HSI distributes investigative leads to special agents who work alongside international, federal, state, and local partners, in addition to private institutions, to pursue individuals and networks who smuggle cultural property, art and antiquities. These cases include investigating and returning stolen modern art, looted sarcophagi and dinosaur fossils, and smuggled coins or ancient tablets.

                HSI agents are trained in a partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Cultural Heritage Center and the Smithsonian Institution on the identification, authentication, and handling of these objects and artifacts, which supports their return to their rightful owners through cultural repatriation. Since 2007, this collaboration has resulted in the training of more than 400 law enforcement personnel who are responsible for investigating these crimes and identifying and handling cultural property.

                Once HSI completes a cultural property investigation, it coordinates the return of smuggled objects or artifacts to their rightful owners. Since 2007, HSI has repatriated more than 12,000 objects to more than 30 countries.[14]



[1]    Spencer Woodman and Malia Politzer, Flurry of seizures intensify pressure on the Met over artifacts linked to accused traffickers, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Aug. 31, 2022 https://www.icij.org/investigations/hidden-treasures/flurry-of-seizures-intensify-pressure-on-the-met-over-artifacts-linked-to-accused-traffickers

[2]    Tom Mashberg and Graham Bowley, Antiquities Seized From the Met, N.Y. Times, Sept. 3, 2022, at C1, col. 2.

[3]    David Guido, Manhattan DA Raids the Met, Seizes Antiquities for Repatriation, Sept. 3, 2022, https://www.art-insder.com/manhattan-da-raids-the-met-seizes-antiquities-for-repatriation/4064.

[4]    Woodman and Politzer, supra.

[5]    Mashberg and Bowley, supra.

[6]    Jacob Knutson, New York investigators seize over $13 million worth of artifacts from Met, Axios, Sept. 2, 2022.

[7]    Woodman and Politzer, supra.

[8]    Id.

[9]    Mashberg and Bowley, supra.

[10]   Id.

[11]   Id.

[12]   Joseph Konig, Millions in looted antiquities seized from Metropolitan Museum of Art, www.NY1.com, Sept. 2, 2022.

[13]   Id.

[14]    HSI, Cultural Property, Art, and Antiquities Smuggling: Investigating the Illicit Importation and Distribution of Stolen or Looted Cultural Property, https://www.ice.gov/investigations/cultural-property-art-and-antiquities-smuggling  (accessed Sept. 5, 2022).

 

 

European Authorities Dismantle Criminal Network Involved in Large-Scale Tobacco Smuggling and VAT Fraud

Thursday, September 8, 2022
Author: 
Bruce Zagaris
Volume: 
38
Issue: 
9
Abstract: 

On August 29, with the support of Eurojust and Europol law enforcement authorities in Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Poland dismantled a criminal network engaged in a large-scale VAT fraud involving tobacco smuggling.  The estimated loss due to the tax evasion to the European Union budget is estimated at over €8,750,000.[1]



[1]    Eurojust, Eurojust supports action against large-scale VAT fraud to the EU, Press release, Aug. 29, 2022.

 

German Diplomat Flees Brazil one Day Before Indictment for Murder

Friday, September 2, 2022
Author: 
Alex Mostaghimi
Volume: 
38
Issue: 
9
Abstract: 

A member of Germany’s consul in Rio de Janeiro, Uwe Herbert Hahn, is accused of murdering his husband of 23 years, Walter Biot, at their home in Ipanema on August 5th.  Brazilian authorities initially detained Hahn on August 6th, but a state court ordered his release on August 23rd.  Soon after, Hahn took a flight back to Germany and Brazilian authorities are now requesting his return to face trial.

U.S. DOJ Secures Warrant to Seize $45 Million Airplane of Russian Energy Company

Friday, September 2, 2022
Author: 
Bruce Zagaris
Volume: 
38
Issue: 
9
Abstract: 

On August 31, 2022, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) secured a warrant to seize a Boeing 737-7EM aircraft owned by PJSC LUKOIL, a Russian multinational oil and gas corporation headquartered in Moscow, Russia.  The DOJ obtained the warranted from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, which authorized the seizure, finding probable case that the Boeing aircraft was subject  to seizure based on violations of federal law.[1]



[1]    U.S. Department of Justice, United States Obtains Warrant for Seizure of $45 Million Airplane Owned by Russian Energy Company PJSC LUKOIL, Press Rel. 22-394, Aug. 31, 2022.

 

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