Dealer who sold antiquities to Getty loses looting appeal
Date: 19 Jul 2009 | | Views: 2820
Source: Los Angeles Times, by Mike Boehm and Jason Felch
Giacomo Medici, who Italian authorities say was a key conduit for looted ancient art that landed in museums, such as the Getty and New York's Met, still faces prison and a $14-million fine after his 2004 conviction was upheld today by an appeals court in Rome. His sentence, however, was reduced from 10 years to eight.
Bloomberg News reported that Medici, 71, remains free as he plans an appeal to Italy's highest court. "Mickey Mouse can't compete with the state" that has prosecuted him, Medici said.
Although the court trimmed two years from Medici's prison sentence, prosecutor Paolo Ferri told The Times that Medici still faces a "very hard sentence. This is the first time in Italy that this type of crime has been given such a high punishment."
Medici's legal troubles go back to 1995, when investigators raided his warehouse in Geneva and found thousands of neatly cataloged photos that became evidence against not only him, but also the Getty's former antiquities curator, Marion True, whose slow-moving trial in Rome began late in 2005 and remains open.
Earlier that year, following Medici's trial and conviction, True was indicted for allegedly having conspired to buy looted art from him and another dealer, Robert Hecht, and she eventually resigned from the Getty. Ferri said he expects to finish presenting the evidence against True and Hecht in the next scheduled trial proceeding in late October. The prosecutor acknowledged that technical challenges related to Italy's statute of limitations could be an obstacle: "I can't say for sure that there will be a conviction of True and Hecht," he said.
True's attorneys have said she may have bought looted works for the Getty, but that she acted in good faith, not knowing they had been dug and exported in violation of Italian laws safeguarding ancient artifacts discovered after 1939.
Harry Stang, a Los Angeles-based attorney who represents True, told The Times on Wednesday that her team of Italian lawyers plans to mount "a complete defense" when her turn comes to present evidence. He said the most recent hearing, on June 19, ended with the True team's cross-examination of an archaeologist for the Italian government.
The Getty struck an agreement in 2007 to return 40 objects from its collection to Italy. Prosecutions and other pressure from Italian and Greek authorities have helped drive the Getty, the Met and other museums and private collectors to reverse a history of buying prized objects without insisting on firm evidence that their provenance -- a record of their origins and ownership -- was legitimate. Moving forward from that embarrassment, the Getty adopted an antiquities acquisition policy that anti-looting activists have praised as a model for other museums.