$130 Million Giant Pearl Smuggled to the U.S. without Philippine National Museum Permit

Considered to be a modern-day cultural property smuggling, the 81.5-pound clam pearl valued at roughly $130 million reached American shores even without a Philippine National Museum permit.

WNEP TV Station based in Pennsylvania reported that the giant pearl owned by Filipino Gloria Huetter discovered several months ago has been smuggled out of the country through Charlton Hollenbach, her American friend.

Hollenbach confirms that he should have secured a permit from the Philippine National Museum for the giant pearl along with other cultural properties.

In the report, Hollenback acknowledged that the feat of smuggling the pearl out of the country was not an easy one.

In earlier reports, Huetter claimed she will be selling the pearl to help impoverished people in the Philippines. The pearl in her possession even exceeded the size of the one found in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan during the previous year.

The 14-pound Pearl of Lao Tzu or the Pearl of Allah is recognized as the world’s largest pearl before this one.

Jeremy Barns, the National Museum Director, expressed his disappointment regarding the incident. For him, the report was a clear admission of illegal trafficking in the Philippine soil.

He called the people involved in this crime as illegal traffickers and smugglers after indicating that there are international laws and agreements that should have been taken into consideration but were not.

“It’s not just an ordinary pearl,” added Barns. “It is not even a variety of gem. It’s a clam pearl.” He also said that the value is not the issue here.

He emphasized that the pearl is no ordinary pearl and by virtue of the law is the property of the Filipino people and a part of the country’s heritage.

Barns is setting up a meeting with officials at the United States Embassy in Manila and the Federal Bureau of Investigation will also be involved.

According to the Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act, the Section 3 of Presidential Decree No. 374 that has amended RA 4846, examples of cultural properties include natural history specimens like minerals, rocks, and fossils.

Moreover, the law specifies that exporting any of these cultural properties without securing a permit from the National Museum is a clear violation of the law.

A maximum fine of 10,000 pesos and a 10-year imprisonment or both, is a penalty for such a violation as well as forfeiture of these items by the National Museum.