Burden of Proof



Should auction houses be able to claim that there is “no proof that an object was obtained illegally”?  Or should they be required to provide positive proof that an object was legally brought to market?

If I sell jewelry, for example, I have to possess records that I obtained these commodities through normal–and legal–supply chains.  If I suddenly come into possession of a shipment of Tiffany rings that a dear “friend” of mine sold me at a discount because they “fell off a truck”, can I resell them on the basis that there is no proof that these items were obtained illegally?  Or do I need to be able to show a bill of fare and invoices that track my payments and shipments?  Were one to claim the former, one would be derided as an incompetent businessperson and a fraud.  I have no doubt the IRS would soon investigate.

So why is it that Sotheby’s is able to invert the proper burden of proof without remark?  Would they have us presume them to be complete business incompetents?  Or is it that the inverted burden of proof is in fact a business model that encourages further looting and criminality?

Sotheby’s Caught in Dispute Over Prized Cambodian Statue – NYTimes.com.

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