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RE: Archaeoraptor liaoningensis
Beats me. I don't know the facts and have only a glimmer of the law on
this one. Prosecution of anyone? Probably not. Just because it is
criminal to take the specimen out of China doesn't mean its a crime to
bring it into the US. What the legal status is going to be in the US
depends on GATT and treaty obligations and might require civil or
administrative action by the PRC here. It also depends on whether the PRC
purports to actually own its fossils or simply bans export.
Fraud would be very difficult to prove, since any middle man could claim,
probably truthfully, that he believed the story he was told from his
source. In fact, the more deceptive the seller, the more sure we can be
that the seller has a piece of paper, acknowledged by the buyer,
disclaiming any promises about the authenticity of the specimen.
However, lets assume that one of the usual consumer protection laws applies
which strips the seller of these defenses. The usual rule is that one
can't recover on an "illegal" transaction. But this dumps us right back in
the international law question, as well as trying to figure out what
"illegal" means under whatever state law applies.
So, I've taken three paragraphs to impart no solid information or useful
guidance, but suggesting that about ten hours of legal research needs to be
done by some suitably compensated associate, all without knowing any
relevant facts or cracking a book myself. I leave you to draw your own
lesson from the exercise ...
Vertebrate Notes at
On Wednesday, January 19, 2000 9:20 PM, Ralph W. Miller III
> _Archaeoraptor liaoningensis_ may teach us important ethical and
> lessons, and give rise to jokes, no doubt, but I see it mostly as a very
> situation. I'm grateful that this sort of thing is doesn't happen more
> Some amount of skepticism is healthy, but when the public gets wind of
> like this, it can hurt the reputation of science and the scientists
> On the other hand, it goes to show that frauds do get exposed, and a
> good deal
> faster today than in the past!
> Regarding the ability of anyone involved to sue for fraud, this could
> considerable risk. Bear in mind that the fossil chimera in question was
> illegally excavated in China and smuggled into this country. Therefore
> involved who comes forward seeking damages would be in danger of
> prosecution for
> theft, possession of stolen property, smuggling, and fraud. I see the
> fossil as a monument to man's shortcomings, much as the infamous
> Piltdown Man.
> One big difference here, of course, is that money changed hands,
> profits to the guilty parties. The Czerkases and those who contributed
> money to
> help acquire the chimera were unwitting victims, and to them I extend my
> sympathies, but I don't believe any of the parties involved in this
> should file suit in a U.S. court of law unless they are first granted
> from prosecution. I am not a lawyer, so I am not in a position to offer
> advice here. Just my opinion from the sidelines. "Let the buyer
> -- Ralph W. Miller III firstname.lastname@example.org
> Close enough, Toby?