Miami art dealer convicted of smuggling ivory sculptures

Miami-based art dealer Eduardo Ulises Martinez has been sentenced to more than four years in prison for illegally transporting sculptures containing ivory, reports The Art Newspaper. He was also found guilty of obstructing the course of justice.

Martinez was caught with ivory in his luggage in September 2021, as he made his way through Miami International Airport. Last week, a jury found him guilty on nine counts of smuggling items containing ivory, both in and outside of the United States, without declaring the items or making them available for inspection by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). His conviction for obstruction of justice was based on his solicitation of false evidence.

Martinez purchased sculptures containing ivory from auction houses in Spain, England, Canada and Australia and imported them into the United States using various methods of concealment. On some occasions, he stripped the works into their ivory, bronze, and marble components and shipped the individual pieces in separate boxes. He also utilized third parties residing in Spain and England to collect the sculptures from auction houses in Europe, creating the impression that they would stay within the European Union. Thereafter, he instructed individuals to ship the sculptures to the US. In each instance, Martinez, or others at his command, would falsely declare that the sculptures were made from another material or give false descriptions to evade inspection and declaration requirements.

Once the sculptures arrived in the US, Martinez would mend any prior imperfections and sell them at a significant mark up. He even sold to buyers in other countries and helped ease the transportation of ivory out of the US. The jury heard evidence that Martinez knew his actions were illegal, but he continued in order to make money, according to the Justice Department. In addition to his 51-month prison sentence, Martinez was ordered to pay a $20,000 fine and must serve three years of supervised release. He also forfeited various sculptures containing ivory.

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