Recently, on the ArtNet News site, Leila Amineddoleh, the art and cultural heritage lawyer who provided expert advice to the Eastern District of New York on the Hobby Lobby case, explained why the government made a good decision by not trying to seek criminal charges against Hobby Lobby or the company’s president, Steve Green, for their role in purchasing illegally-looted artifacts from Iraq. Aside from being the president of Hobby Lobby, Steve Green is also chair of the board of directors for a museum dedicated to the Bible, which is currently under construction. Hobby Lobby purchased the artifacts, including clay tablets and bullae, via middlemen in the United Arab Emirates for inclusion in the Museum of the Bible.
After an investigation by Federal officials, Hobby Lobby agreed to pay a $3 million fine, relinquish the artifacts, and review their practices for acquiring cultural heritage objects in the future. According to Amineddoleh, there have been many who have lamented the fact that prosecutors opted not to file criminal charges. In a thoughtful piece for artnet, Amineddoleh explains the challenges faced by the Eastern District of New York if they were to have pursued criminal charges against Hobby Lobby. This is a great inside look at what law enforcement and the criminal justice system must consider in the quest to protect cultural heritage objects.