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The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild has become a driving force in the ongoing effort to protect coin collectors and museums in which coins are stored from being forced to give up these items to foreign governments under the premise the coins are the cultural patrimony of the claimant nation. — Richard Giedroyc, World Coin News April 26, 2010

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US District Court Ruling Favors Government in Long Running Forfeiture Case

By Peter K. Tompa |
April 06, 2017

On March 31, 2017, US District Judge Catherine Blake ordered the government to return 7 Chinese Cash coins to the Guild and awarded 15 other Cypriot and Chinese coins to the government.

The Court found that after 8 years of litigation that the government had failed to establish that 7 of the Chinese coins were subject to restrictions imposed in 2009.

As to the remaining 7 Cypriot and 8 Chinese coins, the Court found that the government established its rights to forfeiture merely because the coins listed on an invoice were of types that appeared on the designated list for import restrictions.  The Court also held that expert testimony the Guild proffered was either irrelevant or too general in nature to stave off summary judgment.

In so ruling, the Court ignored additional information the Guild proffered about the short time frame between when restrictions were imposed and the import dates for the coins as well as deposition testimony that suggested that the Cypriot coins had been in the hands of Spink, the English seller, for years.

The Court also refused to reconsider a previous ruling that excused the government from showing that the coins were illicitly exported from Cyprus or China after the date restrictions were imposed.  The Guild had argued the plain meaning of the applicable statute, the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (“CPIA”), required it, and that the government had only proven that 15 of the coins were of types found on the designated lists that were imported after the date import restrictions were imposed.     

In so ruling, the Court glossed over the Guild’s Fifth Amendment Due Process claim that the government could not be absolved from proving important elements of its prima facie case.  The Guild had argued that the Court could not simply assume that the coins at issue were first discovered within and subject to the export control of Cyprus and China based on the appearance of the types on the designated list.  The Guild also noted in supplemental filings that other, recent rulings from sister U.S. District Courts within the Fourth Circuit striking down Trump Administration executive orders on immigration also supported the Guild’s position that constitutional claims require stringent judicial review of government actions, including the motivations of the decision makers.  Here, the Guild had proffered evidence that the decision making was marred by conflicts of interest, the rejection of the Cultural  Property Advisory Committee’s recommendations, and efforts to mislead the public and Congress in official government reports.   

Ironically, the day the Court issued that ruling, the government voluntarily relinquished the 7 Chinese coins the Court ordered the government to return.  That return may also prompt additional briefing as to whether the Court’s order requiring the government to return the 7 Chinese coins was moot. 

The Guild is still considering its options, but will likely appeal the Court’s ruling. 

The Court’s decision can be found HERE.  The Guild’s prior briefing of the issues before the Court can be found elsewhere on the Guild’s website under “News.”

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