DENVER (AP) — Dozens of artifacts are on their way back to Peru after being seized in the United States during investigations into the smuggling of cultural relics.
Investigators from U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement's Homeland Security department held ceremonies in Denver, San Antonio and Boston on Wednesday to repatriate more than 40 items, including 20 Incan artifacts allegedly taken from graves in Peru. Investigators say a middleman purchased those items from local farmers and then shipped them by mail from Bolivia to a smuggler in New England.
A Utah man forfeited two other objects — a pre-Columbian statue and a funerary vessel — after Israeli authorities arrested him on smuggling charges. Those two items and a vessel from the northern Lambayeque region of Peru recovered from a Tennessee business that sells Mayan artifacts were returned to the Peruvian consul general during the Denver ceremony.
"The cultural treasures returned today do not belong in the hands of any private collection or one owner. They belong to the people of Peru where they can be displayed and serve as a reminder of Peru's rich cultural heritage," ICE acting director Thomas Winkowski said in a statement.
Homeland Security helps investigate the illegal importation and distribution of artifacts. Since 2007, it says more than 7,150 items, including paintings, manuscripts and other artifacts, have been returned to 27 countries.