Prosecutors Reveal Further Details in Khouli Case: Allege One Half Million Dollars Paid Abroad, Smuggled Antiquities Found in Garage, Ancient Artifacts Labeled 19th Century "English Glass Bottles"

Sunday, August 21, 2011
The US Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York, brought an in rem action (Latin for “against the thing”) on June 14, 2011 to forfeit cultural property seized from Mousa “Morris” Khouli, an antiquities dealer who operated Windsor Antiques in New York. The objects sought to be forfeited are three Egyptian wood nesting coffins, two wooden horses, wood furniture, $80,488.99 in cash, thirty-seven Luristani bronzes, eighteen Iraqi glass vessels, twenty-one clay relief plaques, and sixty-five stone flat faces.

A grand jury in May indicted Khouli and three co-defendants on criminal charges stemming from their involvement in an alleged antiquities smuggling ring. Now the government’s civil complaint is unsealed, providing further details about the case.

A summary and timeline containing the latest information has been created below. All quotations come from the government’s thirty-seven page in rem complaint dated June 24, 2011. Moreover, the government’s assertions must be proven in court by prosecutors; they remain allegations at this stage of the proceedings.

Authorities say that Windsor Antiques listed many imported cultural objects to have originated from the United Arab Emirates. Federal prosecutors allege illegal entry of these goods by means of false statements and smuggling.The US Attorney’s Office charges that “[u]pon information and belief, Windsor [Antiques] has sold stolen Iraqi cultural property in violation of Iraqi patrimony laws and has imported Egyptian antiquities and other antiquities in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 542 and 545.”

“All the [cultural objects] were imported, sold, purchased, and/or are proceeds of an extensive scheme by Khouli, and others, to smuggle cultural property and launder money, by and through their respective entities, Windsor, and other entities.”

“Although Khouli and Windsor have been on notice [since 2003] of the need to accurately declare country of origin, Customs entry records for the past five years reveal that 75% of Windsor’s declared cultural property listed the United Arab Emirates (‘UAE’) as the country of origin.” “[F]ifteen out of twenty cultural property importations . . . by Windsor listed the UAE as the country of origin. Given Khouli’s February 10, 2009 representation [to authorities] that none of his merchandise originated in the UAE, all of these declarations were false and contrary to Title 18, United States Code, Section 542 and 545.”

(It should be noted that there is no mention by the government of Khouli’s spin-off company known as Palmyra Heratige (sic). As reported in this blog on July 18, 2011, Khouli’s sole-proprietorship, known as Windsor Antiques, Inc., was created on September 28, 1995 and dissolved on December 27, 2010, roughly one year after the government moved to dismiss initial criminal charges against Khouli. Palmyra Heratige (sic), Inc., Khouli’s newly formed company, emerged on May 28, 2010, about three and a half months after federal authorities searched Khouli and his business. That February 12, 2010 search, described below, netted several ancient Iraqi artifacts.)

On May 23, 2003 federal authorities seized four FedEx packages originating from the United Kingdom. Waybills described the export country and country of origin as English even though the majority of the objects were ancient Iraqi.“For example, two of the FedEx waybills included “English glass bottles circa 1860 A.D.” in their respective list of contents. However, experts in archeology and Iraqi antiquities determined that the glass bottles in these shipments were . . . dated from the third century B.C. to 8 century A.D.”

“Upon information and belief, Windsor/Khouli abandoned its claims to these glass bottles after they were seized by Customs/ICE, and they have since been repatriated to the Iraqi authorities.”

Between 2003-2005, Windsor Antiques offered an unusually high number of Luristani bronzes for sale, suggesting illegal excavation of the antiquities.“While a small percentage of an area’s artifacts can be expected to move to other regions during antiquity, the volume of Luristani bronzes offered for sale by Windsor—over 300 between 2003 and 2005—is consistent with illegal excavation from Iran and Iraq, rather than sporadic findings in other locations due to ancient movement. Indeed, Luristani bronzes are known to have been the subject of significant looting from excavations in the Luristan region.”

In October 2006, federal officials seized Luristani artifacts that were marked as originating from the United Arab Emirates.“Emirates Post, an international mail carrier, shipped to Windsor, using an informal entry, 19 copper daggers. The label on the package being shipped to Windsor described its contents as 19 copper daggers and handles valued at $350 whose country of origin was the UAE. Customs officers examined the contents and took photographs of the daggers. The photographs were identified by an expert on Iraqi antiquities as ‘Luristani bronzes’ originating from Luristan, a province in western Iran, with some pieces found in eastern Iraq near the Iraqi-Iranian boarder.”

Between January 2008 and February 2008, stone faces were smuggled out of the United Arab Emirates and into to the United States. They were described as made in India, originating in Yemen, being south Arabian, or as “other antiques.”“Correspondence between Khouli and the UAE between approximately January and February 2008, demonstrate that Khouli attempted to arrange and/or arranged for as many as 89 Stone Flat Face Antiquities to be smuggled out of the UAE and imported into the United States with false or fraudulent customs declarations, invoices, and countries of origin.”

“For example, as a result of these correspondences, a shipping invoice from an entity ‘Palace Arts’, in Dubai, UAE to Windsor in New York, dated January 29, 2008, was created and indicated ‘89 Decorative Stone Carved Heads;’ ‘Origan [sic] made in India;’ and with a unit price of $75 U.S. dollars, for a total price of $6,675 in U.S. currency.”

“Another shipping invoice, apparently from the same UAE entity to Windsor, New York, for this same shipment and also dated January 29, 2008, was also created and indicated ‘89 Decorative Stone Carved Heads;’ ‘All antque [sic] and over one hundred years old;’ ‘Country of Origan [sic] Yemen;’ and with a unit price of $140 U.S. dollars, for a total price of $12,460 in U.S. currency.”

“On February 6, 2008, upon entry into the United States to John F. Kennedy Airport via Emirates Sky Cargo, from the UAE, this shipment was declared to Customs as 465 kilograms of ‘other antiques over 100 Years Old.’”

“Upon information and belief, within a couple days after smuggling these Stone Flat Face Antiquities from the UAE into the United States with multiple invoices, containing different countries of origin and with different values, Khouli attempted to sell at least one of these items for approximately $700 describing it as ‘Limestone Yemen head’ circa 200 A.D.”

“Further, upon information and belief, on or about September 2008, Khouli sold one of these items for approximately $2,000 describing it as a ‘South Arabian limestone steale’ circa 1-2nd Century A.D.”

From December 2007 through May 2008 over one half million dollars was paid out by Khouli or his shop, contrasted with slightly more than $32,000 claimed by Windsor Antiques for all US imports taken in.“[A]n analysis of the WINDSOR ACCOUNT for the six month period of December 2007 through May 2008 indicates that Khouli/Windsor sent via wire transfer or otherwise, a minimum of approximately $527,620 in U.S. currency abroad, including to the UAE. Yet for the same six month period, U.S. Customs databases and invoices of declared imports by Windsor into the United States indicate that Windsor claimed imports valued worth only $32,360. This discrepancy suggests that Windsor has purchased significantly more cultural property using the WINDSOR ACCOUNT than it has declared on its imports into the United States.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted searches on September 8, 2009 that yielded seized cultural property and money. Khouli was placed under arrest.“On September 8, 2009, pursuant to a consent search of Khouli’s residence . . . various antiquities and items of cultural property, including but not limited to, the INNER EGYPTIAN WOOD SARCOPHAGUS . . . and 61 of the 65 STONE FLAT FACE ANTIQUITIES . . . were seized by ICE.”

The inner Egyptian wood coffin was “consensually seized from Khouli’s garage.”

“On September 8, 2009, pursuant to a court authorized search warrant issued by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York for Windsor, various antiquities and items of cultural property, including but not limited to, 3 of the 65 STONE FLAT FACE ANTIQUITIES . . . the 37 LURISTANI BRONZES . . . seized by agents of the Department of Homeland Security, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (‘ICE’).”

“Approximately Sixty-Five (65) of these smuggled Stone Flat Face Antiquities, have been located and seized by ICE: 61 were found in Khouli’s garage during the consent search on September 8, 2009; one was found, mounted on a stand, and seized at Windsor during the consent search on September 8, 2009 . . . .”

“In addition to Khouli’s history of importing from UAE and selling in the United States an unusually large volume of ‘Luristani’ bronzes . . . on September 8, 2009, during the execution of the search and seizure warrant at Windsor, agents found and seized approximately 37 additional ‘Luristani’ bronzes pieces which Khouli/Windsor had available for sale.”

“Upon information and belief, no certificates of origin or documentation exist to substantiate how the[se objects] entered the United States or their country of origin.”

“In addition, on or about September 8, 2009, pursuant to a court authorized seizure warrant issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, all funds in the WINDSOR ACCOUNT . . . were seized by ICE. At the time of seizure, the WINDSOR ACCOUNT contained approximately $80,489.00 in U.S. currency.”

Between September 8, 2009 and November 4, 2009, Khouli arranged to deliver and sell illicit antiquities.“…Khouli sent and received numerous communications in order to arrange for: (a) portions of the smuggled Egyptian sarcophagus set and other Egyptian antiquities to be delivered into the United States; (b) monies to be sent from the WINDSOR ACCOUNT . . . to accounts outside the United States in order to pay for the smuggled Egyptian sarcophagus set and other Egyptian antiquities to be delivered into the United States; (c) invoices to be created in order to sell and/or attempt to sell the smuggled Egyptian sarcophagus set and other Egyptian antiquities with false or improper provenance documentation; and (d) monies to be sent to bank accounts owned and/or controlled by Khouli/Windsor that were located in and outside the United States, including but not limited to the WINDSOR ACCOUNT, for the anticipated sale or attempt to sell the smuggled Egyptian sarcophagus set and other Egyptian antiquities.”

Between October 2008 and November 2009, Khouli’s communications displayed efforts to engage in illegal antiquities trafficking.“Communications between Khouli and others between at least October 2008 and November 2009, further demonstrate that Khouli arranged for and/or caused to be wire transferred over $5,000 in U.S. currency from or through the WINDSOR ACCOUNT, to a place outside the United States in order to pay for portions of the smuggled Egyptian sarcophagus set and other Egyptian antiquities.”

“Similarly, communications between Khouli and others between at least October 2008 and November 2009, further demonstrate that Khouli arranged for and/or caused to be wire transferred tens of thousands of dollars in U.S. currency into or thorough the WINDSOR ACCOUNT, as well as other accounts held by Windsor/Khouli located outside the United States, in order to buy, smuggle, sell or attempt to sell portions of the smuggled Egyptian sarcophagus set and other Egyptian antiquities with false or improper provenance documentation.”

On November 4, 2009, federal authorities seized Egyptian cultural objects in New Jersey that were bound for Khouli/Windsor Antiques.“On or about November 4, 2009, pursuant to a border search at the Port of Newark, New Jersey, the INNER EGYPTIAN WOOD SARCOPHAGUS AND OUTER SARCOPHAGUS LID . . . and the 2 WOOD HORSES AND MULTIPLE PIECES OF WOOD FURNITURE . . . were found in a shipment from the UAE to Windsor/Khouli. This shipment was detained and seized by Customs/ICE.”

“Furthermore, the import documents accompanying the shipment from UAE to Khouli/Windsor that arrived in the Port of Newark, New Jersey before November 4, 2009, included an invoice, packing list, and ‘Certificate of Origin,’ indicating that it: (a) came from “Amal Star Antiques” in Dubai, UAE; (b) was shipped to Windsor, New York, New York; (c) contained fifteen pieces of “artistic hand made furniture”; (d) all pieces were ‘wooden’; (e) the country of origin was ‘India;’ and (f) the total value of the shipment was $13,700 in U.S. dollars.”

“Amidst this shipment, [the EGYPTIAN WOOD INNER SARCOPHAGUS AND OUTER SARCOPHAGUS LID were] . . . undeclared and/or falsely declared and found tightly wrapped in heavy bubble wrapping, in contrast to the other pieces of the shipment, [specifically the horses].”

On December 16, 2009 the government filed a motion to dismiss the criminal charge against Khouli.

On February 12, 2010, federal agents seized several illicit Iraqi items from Khouli.“On February 12, 2010, pursuant to a second court authorized search warrant of Windsor issued by the Southern District of New York, various antiquities and pieces of cultural property including, the 18 PIECES OF IRAQI GLASS . . . ; and the 21 IRAQI CLAY PLAQUES . . . ; and 1 of the 65 STONE FLAT FACE ANTIQUITIES . . . seized by ICE.”

“… [A]nd three more, [Stone Flat Face Antiquities ] also mounted on stands, were found at Windsor during execution of the February 12, 2010 search warrant.” (Author’s note: Other paragraphs of the government’s complaint, like the one above, appear to indicate that only one stone face was seized on this date.)

“A review by an expert in ancient history and Mediterranean archeology of the 21 clay relief plaques seized from Windsor on or about February 12, 2010, indicated that they appear to be ancient and are of a type produced in central and southern Iraq (Babylonia) from around 2000-1600 B.C.”

“Upon information and belief, no certificates of origin nor any other documentation exists to substantiate how [the 21 clay relief plaques] entered the United States or their country of origin.”

On May 4, 2011 a federal grand jury handed up an indictment against the Khouli + 3 defendants, and on June 14, 2011 the government filed an in rem action to forfeit the antiquities and money seized from Khouli.

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