Will the Obama State Department Uphold Import Restrictions Allegedly Founded on Cronyism?
By Peter Tompa
How did the controverisal decision to impose import restriction on Cypriot coins come about? This is a significant issue because this "precedent" has formed the basis for far more extensive restrictions on Chinese, Italian and now Greek coins.
Well, here are some unrebutted allegations from ACCG's Amended Complaint in the Baltimore Test Case. They are largely based on information from FOIA releases:
48. In or about November 2005, Dr. Pavlos Florentzos, Director of the Cyprus Department of Antiquities, visited the United States at the invitation of CAARI and with the support of the U.S. Embassy in Cyprus. During this time, CAARI facilitated a meeting between Florentzos and employees of ECA’s Cultural Heritage Center, including its Executive Director, Maria Kourpoupas, and a staff archaeologist. See J. Green, Cyprus Director of Antiquities, Dr. Pavolos Flourtzos, Visits the U.S., 31 CAARI News 3 (Winter 2006).
49. Upon information and belief, CAARI has benefited from direct and/or indirect financial and/or material support from State, the Government of Cyprus and Cypriot entities, including the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation.
50. Upon information and belief, the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation was established to rescue the Island’s cultural heritage, which the Foundation maintains was pillaged and destroyed by Turkish forces when they occupied the Northern part of the Island. Upon further information and belief, the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation maintains one of the largest collections of ancient coins of Cypriot type within Cyprus. Upon further information and belief, the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation purchases unprovenanced coins on the open market for its collection of the sort now subject to U.S. import restrictions on coins of Cypriot type.
51. On January 19, 2006, State announced a five (5) year renewal of its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Italy relating to cultural artifacts. Once again, Defendants exempted ancient coins struck in Italy from import restrictions.
52. On December 7, 2006, the Federal Register carried a notice indicating that CPAC would conduct a review of the MOU with Cyprus. That notice invited public comment to be submitted no later than January 11, 2007. The Federal Register notice contained no mention of an effort to extend new restrictions to coins. See 71 Fed. Reg. 71015-71016 (Dec. 7, 2006).
53. On December 8, 2006, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, ECA Miller Crouch indicated in a response to an e-mail inquiry that he “d[id] not anticipate” that new restrictions on coins would be addressed at CPAC’s hearing to consider the renewal of the MOU with Cyprus.
54. On December 14, 2006, two numismatic trade associations filed a request with State to recuse CPAC member Joan Connelly from voting on any last minute effort to impose import restrictions on ancient Cypriot coins. That recusal request noted that Dr. Connelly excavated in Cyprus and had publicly thanked “the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus, its Director, Dr. Demos Christou and the Ministry of Communication and Works, Republic of Cyprus, for granting us the license to excavate on Yeronisos Island.”
55. On January 12, 2007, State summarily denied the recusal request.
56. On January 17, 2007, according to a heavily redacted document released in response to a FOIA request, a State ECA Cultural Heritage Center staff archaeologist conferred with the late Dr. Danielle Parks, an archaeologist associated with the CAARI, about the inclusion of coins in the Cypriot request.
57. On January 19, 2007, according to a document released in response to a FOIA request, Cyprus requested State to amend the designated list of artifacts subject to import restriction to include coins of Cypriot type.
58. On January 25, 2007, CPAC conducted a public hearing on the renewal of the MOU with Cyprus. At that hearing, CPAC Chairman Jay Kislak announced that he had learned that Cyprus had requested that State amend the designated list of Cypriot artifacts subject to import restrictions to include coins of Cypriot type.
59. Upon information and belief, at that same hearing, neither Cypriot authorities nor members of the archaeological community could point to any material change of fact justifying a change in the exemption from import restrictions on Cypriot coins.
60. On January 26, 2007, in response to complaints about the lack of public notice for the inclusion of coins in the Cypriot request, State announced an additional ten (10) day comment period. State made this announcement on the Cultural Heritage Center website and not in the Federal Register. Nevertheless, during this extremely short time frame, numismatic groups generated over 1100 letters opposing the extension of import restrictions to coins.
61. Upon information and belief, comments provided by ACCG and others established: (a) that Cypriot coins were common, with many known examples of coin types struck on the Island; (b) that Cypriot coins travelled widely so that one could not assume that a coin struck in Cyprus was “first discovered” there; (c) that less drastic remedies like the imposition of a treasure trove law and/or the regulation of metal detectors should be tried before import restrictions were considered; (d) and that the CPIA’s “concerted international response” requirement could not be met.
62. Upon information and belief CAARI, the AIA, the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation, and the late Dr. Danielle Parks submitted comments supporting import restrictions at the behest of Cyprus.
63. In a letter dated February 5, 2007, the AIA’s president claimed that it was proper to assume that coins of Cypriot type can be assumed to have Cypriot find spots, because “Coins minted on Cyprus were very rarely taken from the island in antiquity.”
64. On May 2, 2007, Assistant Secretary of State, ECA Dina Powell, the decision maker for the extension of the MOU with Cyprus announced her departure to become the Director for Global Corporate Engagement at Goldman Sachs. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dina_Powell (last checked, 7/2/10).
65. Upon information and belief, Goldman Sachs is a bank holding company with worldwide business interests, likely including relationships with Cyprus or Cypriot entities like the Bank of Cyprus.
66. On or about May 7, 2007, according to a document released in response to a FOIA request, CPAC issued its report making its recommendations concerning the extension of the MOU with Cyprus.
67. On or about May 14, 2007, according to a document released in response to a FOIA request, Pavolos Flouretzos, Director, Cypriot Department of Antiquities, admitted in a private communication to State, “It is true that Cypriot coins shared the same destiny as all other coins of the ancient world. As a standard media of exchange they circulated all over the ancient world due to their small size, which facilitated their easy transport… The continuous circulation of coins for many centuries amongst collectors and between collectors and museums make any attempt to locate their exact find spot extremely difficult.”
68. On or about May 16, 2007, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, upon information and belief the third ranking official at State, accepted an award from Greek and Greek Cypriot advocacy groups as these groups lobbied the State policy makers. According to a press release, "Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns was the first Philhellene to receive the Livanos Award. This award is given each year to, as its states on the award, 'that individual who, like George P. Livanos, has utilized ancient Hellenic values to realize extraordinary achievement in modern society while contributing to the improvement of our civilization.'" See http://news.pseka.net/uploads/img/documents/PSEKA-SAE_2007_Conference_EN_01_CEH_01.pdf (last checked, 7/2/10).
69. On or about May 16, 2007, State’s news service quoted Burns as stating on receipt of the Livanos award, "I wear this title of Philhellene rather proudly. You don’t spend four years in Greece, as my wife and three daughters and I did, and not come back feeling committed to Greek thought, to the Greek way of life, to Greece itself in my case....We’re personally committed to the country, to the relationship."
70. On May 17, 2007, according to a document released in response to a FOIA request, Kurt Volker, Acting Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, wrote the Assistant Secretary, ECA Dina Powell, stating “[G]iven our general support for protection of antiquities and the importance of this MOU to our bilateral relations with Cyprus, EUR strongly recommends that ECA approve the renewal of the MOU and include the protection of coins.”
71. On May 29, 2007, according to a document released in redacted form in response to a FOIA request, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, ECA Miller Crouch wrote an “Action Memo” to the decision maker Assistant Secretary, ECA Dina Powell regarding the extension of the MOU with Cyprus. That Action Memo only provides the decision maker with the false choice of approving the import restrictions including coins in their entirety or disapproving them in their entirety. The Action Memo does not provide the decision maker the option of continuing the then current import restrictions without extending them to coins.
72. On May 30, 2007, according to that same document, Assistant Secretary of State Dina Powell signed off on that action memo that authorized import restrictions on ancient coins of Cypriot type.
73. On July 13, 2007, Defendants formally extended import restrictions to coins of Cypriot Types. See Extension of Import Restrictions Imposed on Pre-Classical and Classical Archaeological Objects and Byzantine Period Ecclesiastical and Ritual Ethnological Material from Cyprus, 19 CFR Part 12, reported at 72 Fed. Reg. 38470-74 (July 13, 2007).
74. On July 16, 2007, the MOU renewal with Cyprus was signed. That MOU fails to suggest that restrictions under the agreement satisfy the CPIA’s requirements, including the requirement “concerted international response” requirement or the requirement that less drastic remedies than import restrictions on coins are not available.
75. On July 19, 2007, Undersecretary Nicholas Burns conducted a signing ceremony for the MOU to coincide with Greek and Greek Cypriot lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill and at the State Department itself. Upon information and belief, representatives of CAARI were invited to this signing ceremony.
76. The official transcript of the Cyprus MOU signing ceremony omits several significant words. In the transcript, Ambassador Kakouris of Cyprus is reported as saying, "In fact, I was reminded just before we came in about something that I had said in January when we were before the Committee and responding to someone very much on the side of the coin collectors who -- talked about the hobby of collecting coins. And I said to him: ‘It may be your hobby, but it's our heritage!" and that is the way that we look at this issue.’"
77. In fact, what Kakouris actually said can be heard (at 10:09 of the audio). There, he states, "In fact, I was reminded by [Cultural Heritage Center ED] Maria Kouroupas just before we came in about something that I had said in January when we were before the Committee and dealing with the coin collectors and somebody who was very much on their side, when he talked about the hobby of collecting coins. And I said to him: ‘It may be your hobby, but it's our heritage!" and that is the way that we look at this issue.’" (Emphasis added.)
78. On July 20, 2007, State issued a press release about the MOU. That press release stated, “With the extension of this MOU, DHS amended the designated list of restricted categories to include ancient coins of Cypriot types produced from the end of the 6th century B.C. to 235 A.D. Coins, a significant and inseparable part of the archaeological record of the island, are especially valuable to understanding the history of Cyprus. This extension of the MOU is consistent with the recommendation of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, which is administered by the Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs.” (Emphasis added.)
79. On August 29, 2007, State sent a report mandated under the CPIA to Congress. Under 19 U.S.C. § 2602 (g)(2), that report is required to: (a) describe the actions taken; (b) whether there were any differences between those actions and CPAC’s recommendations; and, (c) if so, the reasons for those differences. That report, however, contains no indication whether State rejected CPAC recommendation against import restrictions on coins, and, if so, why?
80. In addition, that report also indicates that Customs acted as the lead agency for imposing import restrictions on coins. In pertinent part, the report states, “The Federal Register notice for Cyprus was amended by the Department for Homeland Security, in consultation with the Department of State, to include coins of Cypriot types which are also vulnerable to archaeological looting.”
81. In or about July 17, 2007, ECA publicized the new restrictions on coins of Cypriot types on its website as follows: “The Government of the Republic of Cyprus requested and amendment to the designated list to include coins…. Q. What was the response? A. The Cultural Property Implementation Act places the authority for the Designated List with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in consultation with the Department of State. On July 13, 2007, DHS published a Federal Register notice concerning the extension of the agreement and amending the Designated List to include certain coins from Cyprus, effective July 16, 2007.”
82. In or about May-June 2008, the Cyprus News Service quoted CAARI’s president as stating, “CAARI has been in the forefront of the successful effort to renew the Memorandum of Understanding between Cyprus and the USA restricting the import of Cypriot antiquities into the United States…..” See http://www.caari.org/CAARIat30.htm (last checked, 7/2/10).
83. On January 16, 2009, the Federal Register announced import restrictions on Chinese cultural artifacts, including those on early media of exchange to Tang era cash coins. See 19 CFR Part 12, reported at 74 Fed. Reg. 2838-2844 (Jan. 16, 2009).
84. On April 20, 2009, past CPAC Chairman Jay Kislak signed a declaration in FOIA litigation that stated in pertinent part:
o I am told that Section 303 (g) of the CPIA requires the State Department to report to Congress any differences between CPAC’s recommendations and the State Department’s ultimate decision to impose import restrictions. In this regard, the release of the most recent CPAC report related to Cyprus and its discussion about coins could clarify misleading information contained in official State Department documents.
o I specifically recall the Cypriot request that then current import restrictions on other cultural artifacts be extended to coins was a matter of great public controversy. CPAC considered the question specifically and I recall a special vote being taken on this particular issue.
o With that in mind, I have reviewed both an official State Department Press Release and a State Department report made pursuant to CPIA Section 303 (g) about the MOU with Cyprus…I believe it is absolutely false to suggest in those materials that the State Department’s decision to extend import restrictions to ancient coins was consistent with CPAC’s recommendations. The full release of CPAC’s recommendations with regard to coins could be in the public interest because it should clarify misleading information contained in official State Department documents.
There is a great deal of evidence that has come to light supporting the belief of the ACCG and its allies opposing import restrictions, that secret collusion and negotiations with diplomats of foreign states and their undeclared US agents in the AIA, by Maria Kouroupas and her henchmen in the Cultural Heritage Center have taken place, and that this conduct has been both unethical and perhaps also illegal, in that such conduct is believed to contravene the 1983 CCPIA.
Until the truth about this dishonorable and disgraceful conduct, and the cynical manner in which the CPAC process has gradually been turned into a rigged rubberstamping sham by Kouroupas et al., comes out [note that two chairs of the CPAC have reigned in protest over this issue ], and until administration of the CPAC and the entire process of reviewing and considering requests for import restrictions has been reformed to make it open, transparent and evenhanded, the Cultural Heritage Center can no longer be trusted to act in the best interests of the American people and their government.
When accusations of such gravity are made against public servants, they must be suspended from their duties until an independent investigation has been conducted and the truth is disclosed. Until this has happened, no more requests for new import restrictions or extensions of existing restrictions should be granted.
The State Department is not telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth regarding what they are doing. The American people cannot accept a lower standard of honor and veracity from its diplomats (and their bureaucratic assistants) than is required from every American citizen who appears on a witness stand.