Metropolitan Fine Arts and Antiques in New York 2303NE 27-07-17.jpg
The premises of Metropolitan Fine Arts and Antiques in New York. Image Copyright: Google (2017)

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Brothers Irving and Samuel Morano, owners of Metropolitan Fine Arts and Antiques, had been the subject of a year-long undercover investigation before being arrested in September 2016.

In 2014 the United States introduced legislation banning the commercial import of African ivory of any age, while domestic and export trade was limited to antiques defined as objects more than 100 years old.

Investigators posing as buyers acquired an elephant ivory carving at the shop in 2015, triggering the arrest. 

The brothers had a licence to sell elephant ivory but did not renew it after the introduction of the 2014 law.

Non-custodial sentence

In pleading guilty, the brothers were given a non-custodial sentence involving the forfeiture of 1657 ivory objects, a $200,000 donation to wildlife conservation groups and a payment of $2000 to New York’s environmental watchdog, the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The objects, which will be destroyed in New York on August 3 as part of World Elephant Day, had a combined price of $4.5m, with one pair of tusks ticketed at $200,000.

Authorities said the haul was the largest seizure of illegal elephant ivory in New York State history. 

The US so-called ‘final rule’ on African elephant ivory came into force in July 2016. It reinforced the 2014 ban but permitted non-commercial imports of antique ivory when the item is part of a household move or inheritance, part of a musical instrument or part of a travelling museum exhibition.