GAINESVILLE, Mo. — A small packet of inexpensive Chinese and Cypriot coins imported from England by the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) have been seized by Customs in Baltimore, Maryland.
The coins were imported to test the legitimacy of State Department (DOS) imposed import restrictions via two Memoranda of Understanding (MOU).
ACCG maintains that actions of DOS relating to implementation of the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) have been secretive, arbitrary and capricious and will contest the seizure in the U.S. Federal District Court in Baltimore.
Information from another Freedom of Information Act lawsuit suggests that the DOS failed to follow the recommendations of its own experts on the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) in extending restrictions to Cypriot coins, and then misled Congress about this decision. Other information implicates DOS bureaucrats adding coins to the Chinese MOU even though Chinese officials never asked for their inclusion.
The Obama Administration has promised transparency and accountability in government. ACCG hopes its challenge to the ban on ancient Chinese and Cypriot coins will lead the Court also to address these and other concerns about the process for imposing import restrictions on cultural goods.
During a 2008 International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) discussion, former CPAC Chairperson Jay Kislak (2003-2008) said,
"I am not necessarily against any actions that were taken on any of the MOU’s which were recommended by the Committee and put into action.
I am, however, opposed to the way it is done because I think it is absolutely, completely, un-American, and I don’t mind saying that. Not anywhere in our government do we do things this way, except with this group."
Kislak also addressed government transparency by saying, "In every other branch of government, there is disclosure, and information is made public. We have a democracy, and it is government of the people, for the people, by the people, not by the bureaucrats over them."
Another former CPAC chairperson, Jack Josephson (1990-1995), added,
"…rarely has Committee membership been in conformity with the Act. During my experience on the Committee, this was not the only part of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) that was disregarded."
Former CPAC member Kate Fitz Gibbon (2000-2003) agreed, saying, "In many cases, from my ‘plain reading,’ the Committee has substantively altered Congressional intent."
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The ACCG (http://accg.us) is a non-profit organization promoting the free and independent collecting of coins from antiquity. It advocates protection of cultural resources through programs like the United Kingdom’s Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme that recognize public participation.