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Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities Investigations
07/14/2011

ICE HSI agents bust international smuggling operation

Three individuals are in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for their involvement in an international smuggling ring that imported cultural artifacts into the United States.

Ayman Mohammad Ramadan, a Jordanian antiquities dealer and operator of Nafertiti Eastern Sculptures Trading, is still at-large and presumed to be in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He is charged with multiple counts of smuggling goods into the United States and money laundering.

Ramadan was shipping goods to Windsor Antiques, a New York City gallery that showcased antiquities from around the world. But something didn't sit right with the goods that Windsor Antiquities had for sale. Customs documents listed the UAE as the place of origin for most of Windsor Antiques' items, but in fact, the goods were often from countries like Eqypt, Iran and Iraq.

HSI special agents embarked on an investigation. They interviewed Moussa Khouli, the owner of Windsor Antiques, and confirmed that he was falsifying customs documents to smuggle goods into the United States. Their investigation also revealed that there was a much larger network of individuals involved in the illicit trade of Windsor Antiquities' goods.

HSI special agents arrested Khouli for smuggling goods into the United States. Simultaneously, they seized nearly $80,000 from his company's bank accounts and more than 200 smuggled antiquities from across the world valued at nearly $2.5 million. Subsequent seizures from Windsor Antiques netted an Eqyptian sarcophagus, two Indian ceremonial wooden antique horses, as well as hundreds of antiquities and thousands of antique coins from Greek, Roman, Eqyptian and Ancient Mesopotamian ancestry valued at $1 million.

HSI special agents also executed search warrants on 11 email accounts belonging to various members of the smuggling organization, which led to the discovery of additional suppliers and Eqyptian artifacts, including sarcophagi, destined for the United States.  The goods were en route to Joseph Lewis in Virginia, and Holyland Numismatics, a store operated by Salem Alshdaifat in Bloomfield, Mich.

Ramadan is still a fugitive. If you have information about his whereabouts, please call the HSI Tip Line at 866-DHS-2-ICE.

Read the news release about this investigation.

Learn more about ICE's role in cultural property, art and antiquities investigations.