Thursday, January 19, 2012

Robert Hecht trial expires

Those following the trial of Robert Hecht in Rome will remember the predictions back in 2006: "For a man accused of crimes punishable by as many as eight years in prison, Mr. Hecht seems relatively unperturbed by the trial. (The reason may be that even if he is convicted, he is unlikely to spend a single night in prison, if only because of his age, legal experts say)" (Elisabetta Povoledo, "Antiquities Dealer on Trial in Getty Case Is Vexed but Unbowed", New York Times June 21, 2006). He was linked to the sale of the Sarpedon krater to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as a hoard of Hellenistic silver ("The Morgantina hoard"). The article reminds us that objects sold through Atlantis Antiquities, co-owned by Jonathan Rosen, have been returned to Italy. Indeed Shelby White and Leon Levy were apparently numbered among his clients.

Povoledo now reports that the Hecht trial has expired due to the statue of limitations ("Italian Trial of American Antiquities Dealer Comes to an End", New York Times blog, January 18, 2012).
The court ruling, issued Monday, came in response to a request from Mr. Hecht’s lawyer to dismiss the case because the statute of limitations on the charges had elapsed in 2011. The lawyer, Alessandro Vannucci, said he had hoped the trial would fully exonerate his client, who has always maintained his innocence, “but it was cut short.” This decision “does not do Bob justice,” he said, using Mr. Hecht’s nickname.

The judges did not express an opinion on culpability or innocence. But they ruled that a series of objects that had been confiscated from Mr. Hecht’s homes should return to their “rightful owner,” which was identified as the Italian state, a decision Mr. Vannucci said he would contest.
The trial may be inconclusive but it has reminded those who collect antiquities that they need to check the documented histories prior to purchase as part of a rigorous due diligence search.

Hecht also appears to have supplied antiquities to the Ny Carlsberg in Copenhagen, as well as to public collections in the United Kingdom. Objects that were acquired directly or indirectly from Hecht are likely to appear in the thousands of photographs in the various photographic archives derived from dealers in Greece and in Switzerland.


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