Archive for October, 2013


Does anyone know Sumitra Keghouie Spencer (great-granddaughter of Hagop Guzelian)?

Don’t worry, it’s a nice story. Sumitra Keghouie Spencer’s relatives (descendants of Hagop Guzelian) found her through comments on my first research blog, but they haven’t been able to make contact with her.

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Who ran the eBay auction of the Gaza Apollo?

I want to make clear, immediately, just how uncomfortable I am with this post. Both the act and the process are difficult and troubling, and if anyone would recommend removing or otherwise amending the identifying information, I will take it into very serious consideration.

Nonetheless, I have multiply-cross-checked, publicly-available sources that confirm the identity of the (supposed) eBay seller of the Gaza Apollo; and I have contacted the subject repeatedly via various media, but he has not responded.

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an appeal for information from the alleged seller of the Gaza Apollo on eBay

Dear thn87,

I know a lot about you (far beyond your full name and contact details), including that you’re checking this blog’s reports on the case of the Apollo in Gaza. Considering your involvement, through your alleged auction of the Gaza Apollo on eBay, you cannot seriously expect me not to discuss this information and its implications.

However, I would sincerely appreciate a private discussion regarding the Gaza Apollo case; I am committed to providing an unfiltered presentation of your story and an impartial analysis of your argument. You can contact me via e-mail.

Yours impatiently,



illicit antiquities trading in Nigeria: boutique smuggling, cultural racketeering or state crime?

Having looked at some of the harms that are caused by illicit business, and some of the evidence for the structure of the illicit oil trade in Nigeria, now I want to look at how the illicit antiquities trade could function in Nigeria.

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‘Big business is big politics’: oil bunkering in Nigeria

In Nigeria, oil is siphoned off from every conceivable store and conduit, then most of it is loaded onto barges, carried to sea tankers, and transported to Western markets; most of the income is laundered through Western banks, businesses and investments. Many of the thieves use specialised, heavy equipment and ‘steal tens of thousands of barrels of crude oil’ at a time. Sometimes, it happens within earshot and eyeline of the Nigerian armed forces but, still, ‘no one knows – or will say – what really happened’…

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the problem with rules of thumb for estimating the scale of illicit business

In the next three posts, I want to set up a few important questions about the illicit antiquities trade in Nigeria. First, I want to consider some of the problems with the rules of thumb for estimating the scale of illicit business (in general); then, I want to review some evidence for the structure of the illicit oil trade in Nigeria; finally, I want to review some evidence for the structure of the illicit antiquities trade in Nigeria, and ask if the interpretation fits the evidence… Then I really need to finish writing a proposal…

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the Apollo of Gaza: less innocent origins, equally problematic destinations

Focusing on the information about the Apollo of Gaza itself (rather than the politics of its possession and planned sale), there are now three questions. Is the statue genuine? Is – or, now it’s been cancelled, was – the eBay auction advert genuine? And what the fuck is going on? [For updates on what the fuck is going on, look at the problems with the fishermen’s stories and the Palestinian authorities’ stories, or check the Apollo post stream.]

It appears that someone may have looted the Apollo of Gaza from an archaeological site (on land); that Hamas are still poised to raise funds by selling the statue (which they seized from its “finder”); and that there was a separate, opportunistic, advance deposit scam that exploited the intrigue to offer the statue.

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the Apollo of Gaza: ‘nobody can say, “I didn’t know where it came from”‘

La Repubblica‘s Fabio Scuto (@scutof) has reported (in English and Italian) on the Apollo of Gaza, which may be sold illicitly in order to fund the activities of Hamas. (I learned of this via @keftiugal.) It raises quite a few serious issues – the ethics of selling antiquities to fund (state) activities, the ethics of buying antiquities to prevent their disappearance onto the black market, the practicalities of protecting the cultural heritage of an unrecognised state [and what has actually happened]…

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Did Golden Dawn leaders collect, trade or traffic illicit antiquities?

Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn’s Führer-principled organisation did not only function to commit mass murder and assassinations. It also served to conduct (and funded itself through) ‘extortion of migrant street salesmen and shop owners… smuggling… money laundering’ and a host of far grimmer crimes.

One of its MPs has been caught in possession of suspected illicit antiquities. It may have been a private collection but, in light of the mafia/militia’s apparent engagement in other trafficking and illicit trading, it may be evidence that the illicit antiquities trade was one of the means of funding its paramilitary activity.

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Greece: anti-mafia law is used to suppress civil resistance to destruction of the historic and natural environment

A while ago, I reviewed a ‘corrupt deal’ over the Skouries gold mine in Greece, which was ‘financially as well as socially, economically, environmentally and culturally bad for both the community and the country’, and the consequent community resistance and police repression. Now, exploiting the public distraction of the anti-mafia crackdown on neo-Nazis, the state is using the same anti-mafia legislation to crack down on (historic and natural) environmentalists…

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