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Case: 3:12-cv-01582 Doc #: 1 Filed: 06/20/12 1 of 10.

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO WESTERN DIVISION

United States of America, Plaintiff, v. One Etruscan Black-Figured Kalpis, Circa 510-500 B.C., Defendant.

) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) )

Case No. 3:12-cv-1582

Judge

VERIFIED COMPLAINT IN FORFEITURE

NOW COMES plaintiff, the United States of America, by Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Guillermo J. Rojas, Assistant U.S. Attorney, and files this Verified Complaint in Forfeiture, respectfully alleging, on information and belief the following in accordance with Supplemental Rule G(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure:

I.

NATURE OF ACTION AND JURISDICTION 1. This is an action to forfeit a seized property to the United States. The seized

property consists of One Etruscan Black-Figured Kalpis (i.e., water jug), Circa 510-500 B.C. (hereinafter “defendant property”).

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2.

The United States Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) constructively

seized the defendant property from the Toledo Museum of Art (“TMA”), 2445 Monroe Street, Toledo, Ohio 43620, on June 7, 2012. HSI is a component of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”). By agreement between HSI and TMA, the defendant property remains in the physical possession of TMA for safekeeping. The Kalpis is currently valued by the Italian government at €500,000 (approximately $665,435). 3. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over an action commenced by the

United States under 28 U.S.C. § 1345, and over an action for forfeiture under 28 U.S.C. § 1355(a). 4. This Court has in rem jurisdiction over the defendant properties pursuant to 28

U.S.C. § 1355(b)(1)(A), because the acts or omissions giving rise to the forfeiture occurred in this district; and pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1355(b)(1)(B), incorporating 28 U.S.C. § 1395, because the action accrued, and the defendant property was found, in this district. 5. Venue is proper in this district pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1355(b)(1)(A), because the

acts or omissions giving rise to the forfeiture occurred in this district; and pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1395, because the action accrued, and the defendant property was found, in this district. 6. The Court will have control over the defendant property pursuant to the service of

an arrest warrant in rem pursuant to Supplemental Rule G(3)(b), which the Plaintiff will execute upon the property pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1355(d) and Supplemental Fed. R. Civ. P. G(3)(c).

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II.

BASIS OF FORFEITURE 7. 8. The United States repeats and re-alleges paragraphs 1-6. Under 19 U.S.C. § 1595a(c)(1)(A), merchandise may be seized and forfeited

when it is illegally introduced into the United States and was stolen, smuggled, or clandestinely imported. Under 18 U.S.C. § 2314, it is illegal for a person to knowingly transport in interstate or foreign commerce any merchandise which has been stolen, converted or taken by fraud. 9. The defendant property constitutes stolen merchandise that was transported in

interstate or foreign commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2314, and is subject to forfeiture as merchandise illegally introduced into the United States, under 19 U.S.C. § 1595a(c)(1)(A).

III.

FORFEITURE COUNT 10. 11. The United States repeats and re-alleges paragraphs 1-9. In approximately January 2010, the HSI Attaché Office in Rome, Italy, initiated a

cultural property investigation, regarding the defendant property. This investigation resulted from a request for assistance from the Italian Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale (“TPC”) Operation Unit in Rome. 12. The defendant property was identified by the TPC as a Terracotta “Etruscan

Black-Figured Kalpis,” circa 510-500 B.C., attributable to the Micali Painter who operated at Vulci, Italy, at the end of the 6th Century B.C. The TPC and HSI determined that the defendant property was located at TMA, and HSI Special Agent (“SA”) Douglas E. Bort was assigned by HSI to serve as the lead local investigator. 13. The defendant property came to the attention of Italian authorities in connection

with an Italian criminal investigation of Giacomo Medici, an Italian citizen, who was suspected of purchasing and then exporting antiquities that were illegally excavated from Italy.
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14.

In 1995, the TPC, along with Swiss and British police, executed a search warrant

at a storage room in Geneva, Switzerland that belonged to Medici. During the search, authorities discovered that numerous art pieces located in the storage room had what appeared to be illegal provenances, or documents that trace ownership of art objects. Authorities seized these pieces with suspected illegal provenances as well as many commercial documents and photographs relating to thousands of archaeological items that had already been sold. 15. The joint investigations conducted by Italian, Swiss and British police led to the

determination that all of the recovered artifacts originated from illegal excavations in Italy, in violation of Italian law. 16. On December 13, 2004, Medici was convicted of the intent to receive stolen

archaeological artifacts illegally removed from Italy’s cultural patrimony. He was sentenced by the Tribunal of Rome to 10 years imprisonment and to a monetary compensation in the amount of €10,000,000 in damages to be paid to the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage. 17. 18. The defendant property was one of the items for which Medici was convicted. Under Article 33 of the Italian patrimony law of June 20, 1909 (Law Number

364), exportation of an antiquity, as defined under the law, is considered smuggling when the article is not presented to Italian customs or otherwise concealed from Italian customs in order to avoid licensing requirements and payment of applicable taxes. 19. Under Article 44 of Italian cultural patrimony law of June 1, 1939, all

archaeological finds are property of the Italian state, unless the possessor can show private ownership prior to 1902, and the discovery of every archaeological item must be reported to Italy’s Ministry of Culture.

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20.

An export license, issued by Italy’s Ministry of Culture, and payment of custom

duties are mandatory for any export from Italy of cultural property protected by Italy’s patrimony laws. 21. Law enforcement authorities believe that Medici smuggled the defendant property

from Italy long after the Italian cultural patrimony law of June 1, 1939 took effect. Authorities believe that in doing so, Medici violated the Italian patrimony laws of 1909 and 1939, and other Italian patrimony, exportation and smuggling laws. 22. Authorities believe that Medici eventually brought the defendant property to

Switzerland and sold it to Gianfranco Becchina. 23. Authorities believe that Becchina then created a fraudulent provenance for the

defendant property to allow for its subsequent sale. The provenance created by Becchina indicates that Becchina purchased the defendant property from Mr. K. Haug (“Haug”) in 1980. The provenance states that Haug inherited the artifact from his father, who in turn had previously acquired the defendant property in the art market in 1935. 24. Investigators determined that Haug was the owner of Hotel Helvetia in Basel,

Switzerland. He was also the previous owner of the gallery Antike Kunst Palladion, which was later bought by Becchina and his wife Juraschek Ursula Becchina (“Ursula”). 25. Ursula was arrested by Italian authorities in connection with her involvement in

the illegal smuggling of Italian artifacts. After her arrest, Ursula provided evidence against Becchina, describing his involvement in the illicit traffic in Italian cultural items found at the gallery Antike Kunst Palladion. She also stated that Becchina collected artifacts illegally in Italy from diggers and from Medici.

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26.

Ursula indicated that Becchina would create false documentation to build a

fraudulent provenance for the artifacts. When asked for an example of this, Ursula mentioned vases from the southern Italy region of Puglia that the Italian authorities found in the gallery Antike Kunst Palladion. She stated that Becchina bought those vases in 1972 from Italian diggers. She stated that she and Becchina used fake documents attesting that Haug obtained the artifacts in 1930. This information was used to build fraudulent provenances for some of those vases. 27. Investigators believe that Haug’s name was similarly used to build a false

provenance for the defendant property in the instant case. 28. The investigation conducted by the Italian authorities has also revealed the

following facts, including but not limited to: a) an export license from Italy’s Ministry of Culture does not exist for the Kalpis which was alleged to have been originally purchased in 1935 by a private Swiss collector after Italy’s cultural patrimony laws originally took effect in 1909, a Polaroid photograph was discovered amongst the entire Becchina archive of documents, invoices and photographs seized during a search warrant in Basel, Switzerland on February 23, 2002, the Polaroid technique, which came into existence well after Italy’s patrimony law originally took effect in 1909, is used by tomb robbers and traffickers in works of art because photographs are easily produced without needing other people who can develop rolls of film, the Polaroid photograph appears to show mud on the Kalpis itself along with dirt on the actual photograph which demonstrates that the Kalpis was photographed in a non-institutional setting long after 1935, its alleged original sale date to the private Swiss collector, similar Polaroid photographs of the Kalpis were seized during a search warrant executed in Geneva, Switzerland on September 12, 1995 at the offices/warehouse of Medici, Medici’s sentencing document states that the Kalpis was sold by Medici to
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b)

c)

d)

e)

f)

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Becchina, g) Medici’s sentencing document directly contradicts the information contained in the provenance and invoice provided by Becchina to the Museum at the time of purchase on August 26, 1982, that the Kalpis was (a) purchased by a private Swiss collector in 1935 at an art market and (b) sold by Karl Haug (“Haug”), the alleged son and heir of the private Swiss collector, to the Becchinas in 1980, Haug was actually the owner of the Hotel Helvetia and also formerly owned Antike Kunst Palladion, the art gallery purchased by the Becchinas, the Kalpis, despite its high quality and worth, did not appear in any scientific publication until 1981, one year before the Museum acquired it.

h)

i)

29.

In 1982, TMA relied on the defendant property’s fraudulent provenance and

purchased it from Becchina for approximately $90,000. 30. TMA officials entered into the agreement to purchase the defendant property

believing that the defendant property’s provenance was genuine. 31. The aforementioned facts establish that the defendant property was stolen from

the country of Italy, smuggled out of the country, and eventually illegally imported into the United States. 32. The defendant property is subject to forfeiture pursuant to 19 U.S.C. §

1595a(c)(1)(A), as property stolen, smuggled, or clandestinely imported, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2314. IV. PRAYER FOR RELIEF WHEREFORE, Plaintiff, the United States of America, requests that this Court enter judgment condemning the defendant property and forfeiting it to the United States of America, and providing that the defendant property be delivered into the custody of HSI for disposition according to law, and for such other relief as this Court may deem proper. The United States

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reserves the right to amend this Complaint as additional facts become known in the course of discovery or otherwise. Respectfully submitted, STEVEN M. DETTELBACH UNITED STATES ATTORNEY By: /s/ Guillermo J. Rojas Guillermo J. Rojas Assistant U.S. Attorney Reg. No. 0069882 Four Seagate, Third Floor Toledo, Ohio 43604-2624 Phone/Fax: (419) 259-6376/6360 guillermo.rojas@usdoj.gov

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VERIFICATION I, Douglas E. Bort, hereby verify and declare under penalty of perjury that I am a Special Agent with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, that I have read the foregoing Verified Complaint and know the contents thereof, and that the matters contained in the Verified Complaint are true to my own knowledge, except that those matters herein stated to be alleged on information and belief and as to those matters I believe them to be true. The sources of my knowledge and information and the grounds of my belief are the official files and records of the United States, information supplied to me by other law enforcement officers, as well as my investigation of this case, together with others, as a Special Agent with ICE Homeland Security Investigations. I hereby verify and declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief. Dated: June 19, 2012

/s/ Douglas E. Bort Douglas E. Bort Special Agent ICE Homeland Security Investigations

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CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE I hereby certify that on June 20, 2012, the foregoing Complaint was filed electronically. Personal Notice of this Complaint will be sent by Certified U.S. Mail to the known claimants and counsel, listed below. In addition, Public Notice of this Complaint will be posted for 30 days on the government website, www.forfeiture.gov, as required by Rule G(4)(a)(iv)(C) of the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions.

Carol Bintz Chief Operating Officer Toledo Museum of Art P.O. Box 1013 Toledo, OH 43697 On behalf of Claimant Toledo Museum of Art Keith Wilkowski Marshall & Melhorn, LLC Four Seagate, Eighth Floor Toledo, Ohio 43604 Attorney for Claimant

/s/ Guillermo J. Rojas Guillermo J. Rojas Assistant U.S. Attorney

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