At 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, Israeli police say, authorities arrested five Palestinian antiquities dealers in Jerusalem and confiscated items dating back thousands of years from their homes and shops: papyrus fragments from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the bust of an Etruscan woman, a fresco from Pompeii depicting swimming fish. They also seized more modern objects — two black luxury Audi vehicles — and more than $200,000 in cash.The specifics are not very clear, but this seems to be what the case is about:
NPR has learned the reason for the early Sunday morning arrests: Israel's Antiquities Authority says the dealers were involved in sales of antiquities — including items that U.S. authorities determined were smuggled — to Hobby Lobby, the national U.S. arts and crafts chain.
On Sunday, Israeli police and tax authorities issued a statement saying the dealers provided fictitious invoices for the sales and an American allegedly used the invoices to receive large-scale tax breaks — and paid dealers kickbacks in return. They declined to name the American.Watch this space.
But later in the day, in a court hearing, Israeli police said the arrested Jerusalem antiquities dealers are suspected of tax evasion for failing to report the $20 million in earnings to Israel's tax authority — and are also suspected of money laundering for an alleged scheme in which fictitious receipts and invoices were issued for antiquities sold to [Hobby Lobby president Steve] Green.
Background on the recent arrests in Jerusalem is here. Background on the recent Hobby Lobby settlement with the U.S. Justice Department is here and links.
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