New York, New York - Dozens of priceless historical artifacts dating back more than 2,500 years looted from the Republic of Turkey and illegally smuggled into the United States were returned to the Turkish government Wednesday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The artifacts were intercepted at Newark International Airport by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in February 2013 and HSI Newark returned the items Tuesday subsequent to an investigation that determined the artifacts were illegally smuggled out of Turkey using false documentation destined for an individual in Illinois.
The repatriation ceremony at the Turkish Consulate in Manhattan was conducted by Andrew M. McLees, special agent in charge of HSI Newark; Robert E. Perez, director of CBP New York field operations, and Turkish Consul General Ertan Yalcin.
The Turkish government received the following items dating to the 6th Century B.C.:
- 48 ancient arrowheads
- 15 ancient coins
- one ancient ring
- one ancient metal horse trapping cheek piece
"These priceless historical artifacts do not belong in the hands of any private collection or one owner. They belong to the people of Turkey," said McLees. "This repatriation is a terrific example of investigations into the theft and looting of national treasures around the world being conducted by HSI. As is the case with these precious artifacts, many of these seizures hold priceless national value, often dating back to past civilizations."
"On behalf of Turkish people and my government, I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations as well as all concerned U.S. authorities for their valuable cooperation and assistance on repatriation of the historical artifacts from our motherland" said Yalcin.
"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."
HSI plays a leading role in criminal investigations that involve the illegal importation and distribution of cultural property, including the illicit trafficking of cultural property, especially objects that have been reported lost or stolen. The HSI Office of International Operations, through its 75 attaché offices in 48 countries, works closely with foreign governments to conduct joint investigations, when possible.
HSI's specially trained investigators assigned to both domestic and international offices, partner with governments, agencies and experts to protect cultural antiquities. They also provide cultural property investigative training to law enforcement partners for crimes involving stolen property and art, and how to best enforce the law to recover these items when they emerge in the marketplace.
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.
Learn more about HSI cultural property, art and antiquities investigations. Members of the public who have information about suspected stolen cultural property are urged to call the toll-free HSI tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or to complete its online tip form.