On July 10, 2014, in a formal ceremony in Manhattan, ICE and the Justice Department returned to the Mongolian government the fossilized remains of over 18 dinosaur skeletons, including two Tyrannosaurus bataar skeletons that were unlawfully taken from Mongolia.
The fossils of 20-30 animals and a fossilized egg were looted from the Gobi Desert and illegally smuggled into the United States. They were seized by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents during two separate investigations and determined they were illegally poached and smuggled out of Mongolia between 2005 and 2012.
The Mongolian government received:
– Saurolophus Angustirostris (Hadrosaur) skeleton
– Oviraptor matrix containing the remains of at least five Oviraptor skeletons
– Nearly complete Tyrannosaurs Bataar skeleton
– Nearly complete Saurolophus Angustirostris (Hadrosaur) skeleton
– Nearly complete Oviraptor skeleton
– Oviraptor Egg
“The fossils returned today do not belong in the hands of any private collection or one owner. They belong to the people of Mongolia where they will be displayed in their national museum alongside the Bataar ICE repatriated last year,” said James T. Hayes, special agent in charge of HSI New York. “HSI will not allow the illicit greed of some to trump the cultural history of an entire nation.”
According to the ICE press release regarding the turnover ceremony, Mongolian law has firmly established that all paleontological findings are government property and part of the nation’s rich cultural heritage. Since 1924, the Mongolian government has prohibited personal ownership and criminalized the export of items of cultural significance, such as dinosaur remains.
The criminal investigation led to the prosecution and sentencing by a New York Federal Court of a commercial paleontologist to three months incarceration and one year and three months supervised release on charges related to smuggling, conspiracy and sale or receipt of stolen goods.
Since 2007, more than 7,150 artifacts have been returned to 27 countries, including paintings from France, Germany, Poland and Austria; 15th to 18th century manuscripts from Italy and Peru; as well as cultural artifacts from China, Cambodia and Iraq.
More photos and a video of the dinosaur fossils are available here: http://www.dvidshub.net/feature/dino