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United States v. An Antique Platter of Gold known as a Gold Phiale Mesomphalos C. 400 B.C.
United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
184 F.3d 131 (1999)
A European art dealer, William Veres, sold an ancient gold plate known as a phiale to a New York-based art dealer, Robert Haber, who acted on behalf of the phiale’s ultimate purchaser, Michael Steinhardt. The phiale, which was valued at $1 million, was located in Italy. Haber flew to Switzerland. Veres transported the artifact to the Italian-Swiss border, where Haber took possession. When Haber flew back to New York, he represented the phiale as being from Switzerland and having a value of $250,000 on the customs entry forms. Steinhardt then took possession of the phiale, which he displayed in his home. Three years later, the Italian government sought the help of the United States government (plaintiff) in locating the phiale. Under Italian law, an ancient artifact is presumed to belong to Italy unless its possessor can demonstrate ownership prior to 1902. The United States seized and forfeited the phiale under a U.S. statute that prohibited importation by means of a false statement. In the legal proceeding that accompanied the forfeiture, Steinhardt entered as a claimant. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the United States. Steinhardt appealed, arguing that the false statements were not material. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit granted certiorari.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Winter, C.J.)
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