NEW YORK – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) returned a variety of dinosaur skeletons and other fossils to the Mongolian government today in New York. The fossils were recovered by HSI as a result of investigations in Wyoming and New York.
Mongolian patrimony laws prohibit the export of dinosaur fossils, as well as the private ownership of these items. The returned pieces include nearly complete skeletons of Bactrosaurus, Protoceratops and Psittcosaurus, a nest of Protoceratops eggs, and the skulls of an Alioramus and a Psittcosaurus.
“Today’s ceremony is an excellent demonstration of the cooperation between HSI, our colleagues at the Department of Justice and our foreign counterparts with the Government of Mongolia,” said Peter T. Edge, HSI’s executive associate director. “A successful repatriation requires extensive cooperation among all parties involved, which is rewarded by the knowledge that we’ve returned what rightfully belongs to the people of Mongolia.”
The ceremony was also attended by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Robert L. Capers, the Director of CBP’s New York Field Operations Robert E. Perez and the Mongolian Ambassador to the United States Altangerel Bulgaa.
“Mongolia is home to the world’s largest reserve of dinosaur fossils with many discoveries waiting to be made,” stated Capers. “We are proud of our role in restoring this rich paleontological heritage to the Mongolian people and taking these cultural treasures from the hands of looters and smugglers. We stand beside the people of Mongolia by disrupting the international trade in smuggled fossils and returning them to their home where they will be studied and treasured.”
“CBP is extremely proud to have played an important role in returning these valuable national treasures to their rightful owners," said Perez. “CBP’s cooperation with HSI demonstrates the continuing resolve of law enforcement in the United States to address illegal trafficking in stolen artifacts.”
“Three years ago, we celebrated our first repatriation ceremony of the skeleton of a Tarbosaur-Bataar. The T-Bataar case was a unique one in many aspects. Most importantly, it has laid foundation of further strong and fruitful cooperation between our two governments in the fight against illegal trade of cultural heritages including fossils. Thanks to this fruitful cooperation, 23 dinosaur fossils were repatriated to Mongolia during the last three years and now we are witnessing a repatriation of seven fossils including an Alioramus skull,” stated Bulgaa. “I take this opportunity, on behalf of the Government and people of Mongolia, to express our profound gratitude for the hard work and dedication of American law enforcement agencies. I have no doubt that these efforts will further strengthen of our bilateral ties, opening new opportunities and giving new impetus to our future cooperation.”
HSI plays a leading role in criminal investigations that involve the illicit importation and distribution of cultural property, as well as the illegal trafficking of artwork, specializing in recovering works that have been reported lost or stolen. HSI’s International Operations, through its 62 attaché offices in 46 countries, works closely with foreign governments to conduct joint investigations.
HSI's specially trained investigators, assigned to both domestic and international offices, partner with governments, agencies and experts to protect cultural antiquities. They also train investigators from other nations and agencies to investigate crimes involving stolen property and art, and how to best enforce the law to recover these items when they emerge in the marketplace. Those involved in the illicit trafficking of cultural property, art and antiquities can face prison terms of up to 20 years, fines and possible restitution to purchasers of the items.
Since 2007, HSI has repatriated more than 8,000 items to more than 30 countries.