The skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Bataar has been repatriated to Mongolia by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The skeleton had been illegally smuggled into the United States bone by bone, and was looted from the Gobi Desert.
The skeleton was sold at an auction and reached a final price of $1.05 million. The skeleton would be later seized by special agents from Homeland Security Investigations.
Agents in the US intervened to stop the sale of the Tyrannosaurus Bataar at the request of the Mongolian government.
On Monday, the skeleton was finally repatriated at a ceremony conducted by ICE Director John Morton; U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara; Chief of Office of the President of Mongolia Tsagaan Puntsag and Mongolian Minister of Culture, Sport and Tourism Oyungerel Tsedevdamba.
Commenting in a news release, Morton said:
“This is one of the most important repatriations of fossils in recent years,” said Morton. “We cannot allow the greed of a few looters and schemers to trump the cultural interests of an entire nation. Through this case, HSI special agents have once again proven themselves to be the leading federal law enforcement experts in the investigation and forfeiture of stolen foreign art, antiquities and relics. Because of the collaborative effort between HSI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we undo a great wrong by returning this priceless dinosaur skeleton to the people of Mongolia.”
Over a period of seven years, the Tyrannosaurus Bataar was smuggled out of the Gobi Desert piece by piece. Import documents stated that the skeleton was from Britian, but this was found to be inaccurate.
President of Mongolia Tsakhia Elbegdorj, said:
“I join the people of Mongolia in thanking the special agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations units in New York, Florida, California, Ohio and Wyoming for their exceptional work and expertise and for their cooperation with the Mongolian State Investigation and Criminal Investigation Authorities.”
“I am deeply grateful to the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York for their wise leadership and legal expertise in this overall effort. I also commend the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, lawyers, judges and volunteers for their role in this case. Our two countries are separated by many miles, but share a passion for justice and a commitment to putting an end to illegal smuggling.”