Leonardo Patterson, a Costa Rican art dealer living in Germany, was ordered to return two ancient wooden figures to Mexico after determining they were improperly obtained and taken out of that country. The court’s ruling states that Patterson must pay court costs because he was unable to prove ownership of the figures.
A witness testified Patterson told him the pieces had been taken by a tomb raider from an archaeological dig in El Manatí, located in the Mexican state of Veracruz, 60 km south of the port city of Coatzacoalcos, a sacred site of the Olmec people, and that Patterson bought them from a dealer.
The court estimated the artifacts’ value at €50,000 euros ($53,000) each.
The so called collector must periodically check in with the court and pay a fine of €1,000 a month during the three-year probation. If he fails to comply, he could face imprisonment of one year and three months.
Patterson’s problems with the law began in 1984 when he was charged by the FBI with attempting to sell a forged Maya fresco to an art dealer in Boston. At the time, he was sentenced to probation.
Leonardo Patterson has been involved in a number of legal cases including the ordering of the return of smuggled items to Guatemala, Mexico and Peru.
The German court said the Mexican Secretary of Exterior Relations and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) collaborated in its investigation into the origins of the Olmec art. The Mexican Public Ministry filed a lawsuit against Patterson when he sold one of the pieces to a German citizen.
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