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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Homeland Security Investigations Returns Artifacts to Nigeria - No Arrests or Indictments Announced

Nok statues repatriated to Nigeria.  ICE
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcements (ICE) officials found themselves busy in New York today.  ICE raided a Manhattan storage area linked to an alleged antiquities trafficking network.  Meanwhile, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) repatriated ten Nok statues and one carved tusk to Nigeria.

James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York, commented on the return of the Nigerian cultural objects seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection:  "Smugglers who thrive on greed place very little interest in the preservation of cultural property when they plunder ancient artifacts to sell to the highest bidder."  No arrests or indictments were announced.

ICE reported in a press statement that "HSI special agents at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) first learned of the stolen Nok statues in April 2010 after receiving information from French customs officials. . . . HSI Chicago had also previously seized two Nok statues and a carved ivory tusk at Chicago O'Hare International Airport.  After an investigation with assistance from French authorities, the Louvre in Paris, Interpol and the International Council of Museums, HSI special agents determined the Nok statues were in fact antiquities and not just handicrafts and personal effects as was diclosed on the importation documents provided to U.S. authorities."

Nigerian Consul General Habib Baba Habu pledged that the "ten figurines and one carved tusk will be returned to the national museum for display, at a ceremony to be presided by the minister of foreign affairs."

Nigeria does not have a bilateral agreement with the United States under the Cultural Property Implementation Act.

This post is researched, written, and published on the blog, Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire at http://culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com.  Post text copyrighted 2012 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC.  CONTACT: www.culturalheritagelawyer.com