US returns forfeited Chinese artifacts

Updated: 2015-12-11 08:59

By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington(China Daily USA)

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"In returning these items today, ICE rights a great wrong for the people of China," said ICE Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale. "Fossils and treasures like these will always be targeted by bad actors, but we continue to investigate these crimes and repatriate them to their rightful owners."

Gu Yucai, deputy director general of China’s State Administration of Cultural Heritage, also thanked the US side. Gu, who came from Beijing for the event, described the 22 artifacts dating all before Tang Dynasty as of high historical and art value.

"These valuable artifacts will not sleep in the storage room upon returning to China, they will be displayed to the public in museums," he said.

"They will demonstrate not only the beauty of ancient Chinese art, but also show the world the sincere cooperation between China and the US in preserving cultural heritage,"

The HIS Cleveland and HIS New York jointly investigated Eric Prokopi of Florida, who later pleaded guilty to engaging in a scheme to illegally import dinosaur fossils. According to court documents and statements made in Manhattan federal court, Prokopi owned and ran a business out of his Florida home and is a self-described commercial paleontologist. He was fined, served time in jail and was subject to 15 months supervisory release.

The other repatriated items were seized in connection with an HIS Miami investigation into an art dealer by the name of Francois Lorin.

Court documents show that invoices accompanying the artifacts indicated the entire contents originated in Florida and were being returned to the US after having been shipped to Hong Kong for a trade show.

After the items were interdicted by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspectors, Lorin and others created false documents to justify provenance for certain items in the shipment that were prohibited from entering the US without such provenance.

Lorin was sentenced to three years of probation, issued a $50,000 fine and required to forfeit the artifacts.

The microraptor fossil returned will be exhibited in the Carnegie Museum of Nature History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, under a loan agreement signed on Thursday.

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