Antiquities Looted in War Returned; U.S. Helps Restore Cultural Heritage

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 8, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Antiquities Looted in War Returned; U.S. Helps Restore Cultural Heritage


Byline: Marieke van der Vaart, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A millennia-old necklace that was sold in a 2007 Christie's auction for $100,000 was returned Thursday to its rightful owner - the government of Iraq.

The necklace - a fading, gold-etched, lapis lazuli chain of beads from the Mesopotamian era - was one of many artifacts that had been stolen by U.S. troops and contractors from museums and archaeological sites in Iraq during the U.S.-led invasion against Saddam Hussein's regime.

On Thursday, U.S. officials returned those antiquities to Iraqi government representatives in a ceremony at the Iraqi Cultural Center in Washington.

These artifacts are truly invaluable, and the FBI is pleased to be able to return them to their rightful owner, said Special Agent Ronald Hosko of the bureau's Washington field office. Working abroad does not entitle anyone to remove historic artifacts and treat them as mementos for illegal sale.

Two representatives from the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) returned the more than 200 items to Iraqi Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie on Thursday, pledging their departments' continued commitment to restoring Iraq's stolen cultural heritage.

Mr. Sumaidaie will fly to Baghdad with the collection to present it to Iraq's Foreign Ministry, which will place the objects in national museums.

U.S. officials said the objects were found in four FBI and ICE-led missions that ranged from routine customs inspections to answering Craigslist ads in Arizona, Florida, New Jersey and Texas.

In 2003, ICE officials uncovered an ancient treasure trove in a U.

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