Sunday, March 26, 2006

More On Chinese Fossil Eggs

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Illegal trade in prehistoric fossils is rife, says an Australian mineral dealer prosecuted in the US for importing protected Chinese dinosaur eggs. Mr Kapitany, 45, will spend a year on criminal probation and was fined $27,175 in a plea bargain made in the US to avoid trial.

Dinosaur eggs are freely on sale in China and Chinese officials often take suitcases of fossils to sell when they go overseas, says Tamas "Thomas" Kapitany. But the Melbourne dealer, who imported several Chinese eggs into California, says he has been unfairly singled out.

"Because I'm the biggest dealer in Australia, they wanted to make an example of somebody and I was an easy target," said Mr Kapitany, who spoke about the incident for the first time today after flying home from Los Angeles this morning.

A dinosaur egg can be bought in Hong Kong for $60 and sold for $5000 after about 40 hours' cleaning and preparation, Mr Kapitany said. "You can go to Hollywood Road in Hong Kong and freely buy dinosaur eggs in a dozen stores there," he said.

"If you're really nice and look like you've got some money to spend they'll take you to the basement where they've got crates of fossils and antiquities.

US prosecutors accused Mr Kapitany of mis-labelling the Chinese dinosaur eggs as Australian minerals. But the cleaning process added more than 50 per cent of the eggs' original value and qualified them as Australian products, Mr Kapitany said.