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Crime & Litigation



US trade officials: Poached wildlife may be financing terrorism

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Written by VERENA DOBNIK, Associated Press   
Thursday, 19 June 2014 09:07

Despite the global embargo on elephant ivory that has been in place since 1990, the rate of elephant slaughter for tusks is at the highest point in a decade. In this picture, three female African bush elephants travel as a small herd in Tanzania. Photo by Ikiwaner, taken July 29, 2010, licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2.

NEW YORK (AP) – The U.S. government is stepping up its crackdown on the illegal trafficking of wild animal products across the nation's borders, saying some may be linked to terrorists, federal officials said Monday.

“Poaching in Africa is funding terrorist groups,” U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told a news conference at Kennedy International Airport.

He said such illegal trade is a threat to global security because it's driven by criminal elements, including terrorists using profits from items such as rhinoceros horns and elephant tusks to finance their activities.

On display in an airport cargo warehouse operated by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection was a collection of wildlife products seized at Kennedy – from ivory disguised to look like a wooden statue and the stuffed heads of a lion and leopard to handicrafts, artworks and musical instruments hiding animal parts.

The single priciest item was a rhino horn. It fetches $30,000 per pound – or about 30 percent more than its weight in gold.

Paul Chapelle, the agent in charge of New York for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said one horn case resulted in 16 arrests, including that of a mobster from Ireland now serving 13 months behind bars.

A dead elephant is worth about $18,000 – mostly from the tusk. Also seized was a small rhino horn libation cup worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Kennedy handles the largest cargo volume of any U.S. airport, about $100 billion a year, said Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport.

And the wildlife element plays an especially powerful role in national security, said Froman, the chief U.S. trade negotiator and adviser to President Barack Obama.

More than 20,000 elephants were killed last year along with about 1,000 rhinos, meeting a rising world demand resulting in declining populations across Africa, according to officials with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

This treaty was signed by more than 170 countries to protect animals that end up as contraband including live pets, hunting trophies, fashion accessories, cultural artifacts and medicinal ingredients.

U.S. trade officials believe that groups benefiting from the poaching include the militant Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda and South Sudan, the Janjaweed comprised of Sudanese Arab tribes, and al-Shabab, a jihadist group based in Somalia.

In February, Obama approved a new strategy for fighting trafficking through enforcement, as well as partnerships with other countries, communities and private industry. For the first time, U.S. officials are asking trading partners to agree to conservation measures for wildlife and the environment in return for signing agreements.

Kennedy customs officials are reaching out to local businesses, plus auction houses like Christie's and Sotheby's and even Carnegie Hall to alert them to illegally traded valuables that may come their way.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-06-16-14 2346GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE

Despite the global embargo on elephant ivory that has been in place since 1990, the rate of elephant slaughter for tusks is at the highest point in a decade. In this picture, three female African bush elephants travel as a small herd in Tanzania. Photo by Ikiwaner, taken July 29, 2010, licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 June 2014 09:16
 

Heritage Auctions files suit against Christie's over hirings

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Written by Associated Press   
Monday, 16 June 2014 10:14
Heritage Auctions sold this Hermes Birkin bag in April for $13,500. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Heritage Auctions.

NEW YORK (AP) – One elite auction house is suing another for hiring away members of its staff, including an expert on high-end French handbags.

Dallas-based Heritage Auctions sued Christie's International for $40 million on Friday.

The suit was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court. It charges that the more famous Christie's persuaded Hermes handbag expert Matthew Rubinger and two associates to break their contracts with Heritage.

A Christie's spokeswoman said the suit was “without merit.”

The suit offers a peak at the rarefied world of Manhattan auction houses like Christie's and Sotheby's.

Both auction houses have been branching out from just moving art and have had a new focus on luxury accessories.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-06-14-14 2025GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
Heritage Auctions sold this Hermes Birkin bag in April for $13,500. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Heritage Auctions.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 June 2014 08:08
 

Germany awards Jewish family $68M for lost assets

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Written by Associated Press   
Friday, 13 June 2014 09:55
The former Schocken department store in Chemnitz, Germany. Designed by architect Erich Mendelsohn in 1930, it is considered a milestone in modern architecture. Image by Shaqspeare. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license. BERLIN (AP) – A Berlin court has ordered Germany to pay the heirs of Jewish owners of a department store chain an additional 50 million euros ($68 million) in compensation for property seized by the Nazis.

The Berlin administrative court said Thursday that the Schocken family lost its chain of stores, primarily in Saxony, during the Nazis' so-called "Aryanization" of businesses in the 1930s.

The family was paid about 15 million euros for one building in the 1990s, but said the others were undervalued. In the ruling, the court ordered the heirs, who live in Israel and the U.S., receive an additional 50 million euros.

The best-known building involved was built in the eastern city of Chemnitz by architect Erich Mendelsohn in 1930. It now houses the State Museum of Archaeology.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-06-12-14 1400GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
The former Schocken department store in Chemnitz, Germany. Designed by architect Erich Mendelsohn in 1930, it is considered a milestone in modern architecture. Image by Shaqspeare. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.
Last Updated on Friday, 13 June 2014 10:22
 

Tough love: Teddy bear thief sentenced to 6 months in jail

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Written by Associated Press   
Monday, 09 June 2014 08:55
Collectible Steiff teddy bears. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Antico Mondo. HOWELL, Mich. (AP) – A woman has been sentenced to six months in jail for stealing collectible teddy bears from a Michigan home and threatening two children with a gun.

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus of Howell reports 45-year-old Denise Louise Powell apologized Thursday in Circuit Court before learning her punishment. She said, “It's obviously clear my life is a mess, and I'd like to fix that.”

In addition to jail time, a judge ordered Powell to serve two years of probation. She faced charges including larceny for the 10 stuffed collectible Steiff bears, which were taken from a Hamburg Township garage in July, as well as assault and battery for the threat.

Under a plea deal, the prosecutor's office dismissed charges including receiving and concealing stolen property and felonious assault.

___

Information from: Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, http://www.livingstondaily.com

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-06-06-14 1113GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
Collectible Steiff teddy bears. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers.com archive and Antico Mondo.
Last Updated on Monday, 09 June 2014 09:09
 

Parolee sentenced to 4 years for Gold Rush jewelry box theft

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Written by TERRY COLLINS, Associated Press   
Friday, 06 June 2014 12:15

The Gold Rush-era jewelry box is worth more than $800,000. Image courtesy Oakland Museum of California.

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – A parolee was sentenced to four years in prison for stealing a 19th-century Gold Rush-era jewelry box from a California museum.

Andre Taray Franklin was sentenced Tuesday for knowingly receiving and then selling the gold-encrusted box that was stolen early last year from the Oakland Museum of California, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag and FBI Special Agent in Charge David Johnson said.

Franklin, 46, pleaded guilty to stealing the jewelry box valued at more than $800,000 in January 2013. It was recovered two months later during the investigation and Franklin was indicted by a federal grand jury.

He entered his plea in March to theft of major artwork and unlawful concealment and disposition of stolen major artwork.

“This prosecution, conviction, and sentence send a strong message that the U.S. attorney's office values greatly, and will fight to protect, the museums and cultural institutions in Oakland and the Bay Area that maintain and display historic items for the public to enjoy,” Haag said.

The box depicts images of early California history and was originally a wedding anniversary gift from a San Francisco pioneer to his wife in the 1800s. After an exhaustive search, Oakland police eventually recovered the box that Franklin had sold for $1,500.

Franklin became a suspect after the incident was captured on a surveillance system and authorities matched his DNA that was already on file to an ax he apparently used to smash glass cases at the museum, prosecutors said.

His sneakers also matched footprints found outside the museum, they said. Franklin had nearly a dozen prior felony convictions that included petty theft and unlawful sexual intercourse, authorities said.

It also was not the first time the popular jewelry box, which has been associated with the museum since the 1960s, was stolen. It was taken in 1978 and recovered several years later at an auction house.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-06-04-14 2247GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE

The Gold Rush-era jewelry box is worth more than $800,000. Image courtesy Oakland Museum of California. 

Last Updated on Friday, 06 June 2014 12:31
 
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