Thousands of Ancient Iraqi Artifacts Imported Illegally to US

As reported by RT, arts and crafts chain, Hobby Lobby, will return 5,500 ancient Iraqi religious artifacts which were smuggled into the US through Israel and the United Arab Emirates as a result of a civil complaint from the US Department of Justice. Hobby Lobby announced on Wednesday that it has agreed to return the artifacts and pay a $3 million dollar fine because of its illegal importation practices. According to the report, Hobby Lobby president Steve Green personally purchased $1.6 million worth of cuneiform tablets, bricks, clay bullae and cylinder seals in 2010.

The DOJ report shows that in October 2010, an expert on property law, hired by Hobby Lobby’s in-house counsel, warned the company that the artifacts, “may have been looted from archeological sites in Iraq.” Green traveled to the United Arab Emirates to personally inspect the artifacts before the acquisition. Despite the warning, Green went through with the transaction.

RT also reports that the civil complaint charges that a dealer based in the UAE shipped the packages of artifacts to three different corporate addresses in Oklahoma City with the consent of Hobby Lobby. Between one and three shipments came in at a time and the required customs entry documentation was purportedly not filed with the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). According to the DOJ, the shipping labels falsely described the contents of the packages as “clay tiles (samples),” or “ceramic tiles”.

CBP intercepted five of the 10 shipments that were sent. All of the packages’ shipment labels were falsified to say that they were from Turkey, according to the DOJ. It wasn’t until September 2011 that more shipments came through. This time, 1,000 clay bullae were shipped by an Israeli dealer and falsified to say that the country of origin was Israel, not Iraq. Although Hobby Lobby has been fined through a civil complaint, there was no mention in the report of any criminal charges filed against Steve Green.

RT report found here.

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