Mousa Khouli, also known as “Morris Khouli,” pleaded guilty today to smuggling Egyptian cultural property into the United States and making a false statement to law enforcement authorities. The defendant entered his plea before the Honorable Edward R. Korman, United States District Judge, at the U.S. Courthouse in Brooklyn. The defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment. The defendant also entered into a stipulation of settlement resolving a civil complaint seeking forfeiture of the Egyptian antiquities, Iraqi artifacts, cash and other pieces of cultural property seized in connection with the government’s investigation.
The guilty plea and settlement were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and James T. Hayes, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York.
According to court documents, Khouli was an antiquities dealer who arranged for the purchase and smuggling of a series of Egyptian antiquities between October 2008 and November 2009, specifically a Greco-Roman style Egyptian coffin, a three-part nesting coffin set, a set of Egyptian funerary boats, and Egyptian limestone figures. These antiquities were exported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and smuggled into the United States using a variety of illegal methods intended to avoid detection and scrutiny by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (“Customs”), including making false declarations to Customs concerning the country of origin and value of the antiquities, and providing misleading descriptions of the contents on shipping labels and customs paperwork, such as “antiques,” “wood panels” and “wooden painted box.” Khouli covered up the smuggling by making false statements to law enforcement authorities.
Most of the smuggled antiquities were recovered by law enforcement at the time the indictment was unsealed on July 14, 2011. The innermost coffin of the nesting set was seized during a search of Khouli’s residence in September 2009. The middle coffin and most of the outer coffin lid were seized in November 2009, after they arrived via sea cargo at the Port of Newark, New Jersey. The Greco-Roman sarcophagus, funerary boats, and limestone figures were seized during a search of co-defendant Joseph A. Lewis II’s residence in July 2011.
The missing pieces of the coffin lid were forfeited to the government in court today. They consist of four wooden bird-like figures that attach to the four corners of the coffin lid, and four wooden panels that comprise the rectangular bottom of the coffin lid. Hieroglyphics on the coffin indicate that the name of the deceased was “Shesepamuntayesher” and that she bore the title “Lady of the House.”
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Karin Orenstein and Claire Kedeshian.
The Defendant:MOUSA KHOULI, also known as “Morris Khouli”
(via U.S. Department of Justice)
Khouli and one of the co-defendants in the case were active members of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) at the time of the their arrests and at the time they allegedly committed their crimes. The ACCG is a lobby group that attempts to stifle legislation meant to curb the looting and smuggling of cultural property when the free trade in ancient coins may be affected; the group is largely run and financially supported by ancient coin and antiquities dealerships.
Litigation continues against the co-defendants, who are considered innocent until proven guilty. Rick St. Hilaire, an expert in cultural property law, has been closely following and reporting on the case.