U.S. returns scores of smuggled artifacts to Iraq government

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 16, 2015 2:13 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 60 Iraqi cultural artifacts smuggled into the United States, including a limestone statue of an ancient king, were returned to the government of Iraq on Monday, the Department of Homeland Security said.

The move follows investigations led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in New York, Baltimore, Austin, Texas, and New Haven, Connecticut, the department said in a statement.

One of the most significant items that was returned is a limestone statue depicting the head of the Assyrian King Sargon II, an eighth century B.C. ruler.

Immigration and Customs agents seized the looted artifact in August 2008 after an antiquities dealer based in Dubai shipped it to New York. The investigation led to the identification of an international network dealing in illicit cultural artifacts, the statement said.

Other artifacts repatriated to Iraq include gold-plated items, such as a soap dish, looted from the private airport and palace of executed former President Saddam Hussein.

Bronze objects, including a Luristan ax from early Sumeria, and clay reliefs and glass objects were also returned.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit has returned more than 1,200 items to Iraq in four repatriations since 2008, the statement said.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Bernadette Baum)