Miami Art Dealer Who Smuggled Ivory Sculptures Sentenced to 51 Months in
Karen K Ho, Art News
March 15, 2023
A federal judge sentenced a Miami art dealer Monday to 51 months in prison
for illegally smuggling sculptures made of ivory in and out of the United
States, according to a press release from the US Attorney’s Office in the
Southern District of Florida.
Eduardo Ulises Martinez was found guilty on nine counts of smuggling
without declaring to the US FIsh and Wildlife Service, as well as one count
of obstruction of justice. The federal district court also ordered Martinez
to pay a $20,000 fine, serve three years of supervised release following
his prison term, and ordered the seizure of various sculptures containing
ivory through a criminal forfeiture order.
Martinez purchased numerous sculptures containing ivory from auction hours
in Spain, England, Canada and Australia, the US Attorney’s Office said.
Martinez imported the sculptures into the US and avoided detection from law
enforcement by dismantling the items and shipping the components in
separate boxes to addresses not associated with his business or his home.
“On other occasions, Martinez used third parties located in Spain and
England to collect or receive the sculptures from auctions houses in
Europe, creating the appearance that the sculptures would stay within the
European Union, and thereafter directed the third parties to ship the
ivory-containing sculptures to the United States, ” the press release said.
Ivory is a hard, white material that comes from the tusk and teeth of
animals, including elephants, walruses, hippopotamuses, warthogs, narwals,
and whales. At least 20,000 African elephants are illegally killed for
their tusks each year, according to the World Wildlife Fund. A resurgence
in demand for ivory from elephant tusks among Asian countries has fueled a
poaching epidemic in Africa.
In 2016, the US implemented a near-total ban on elephant ivory trade. But,
according to the US Attorney’s office, Martinez was stopped at the Miami
International Airport on September 8, 2021, with ivory in his luggage. He
then removed illegally imported ivory sculptures from his showroom and
obstructed an investigation by law enforcement by approaching a witness and
asking them to provide false evidence and testimony.
“In every instance, Martinez, or others at Martinez’s direction, would
fraudulently and falsely declare the contents of the shipping paperwork as
bronze and marble, porcelain, bronze, or other false descriptions of the
contents to evade inspection and declaration requirements.”
Last November, Martinez even tried to argue in court that “items that are
one hundred years of age or older” and “items containing minimal amounts of
ivory are exempt from prohibition.” His motion was denied.
A judge called the motion misguided, stating, “It is not for Defendant to
decide whether goods he imports and exports qualify as exceptions. Indeed,
if any individual could decide for themselves that items they wished to
import into and export out of the United States are exempt from
prohibition, the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) and the Convention of
International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna (“CITES”) would be