Chinese Artifacts Repatriated
Twenty-two archaeological artifacts were recently returned to China by officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, (ICE) demonstrating the U.S. government’s ongoing commitment to the repatriation of culturally significant items to their rightful owners. ICE has recovered and returned more than 8,000 cultural artifacts to over 30 countries since 2007.
China’s Deputy Director General of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, Gu Yucai, accepted the artifacts, including bronze trays, jade disks, and other items which date back as far as 1600 BCE. A 120-million-year-old microraptor fossil was also returned. The People’s Republic of China and the United States signed a bilateral agreement to work together to prevent the illicit trafficking of a variety of historical artifacts, including fossils, in 2009.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) offices in Miami and Cleveland were responsible for recovering the dinosaur relic. Their joint investigation into a Florida man, Eric Prokopi, resulted in a guilty plea for his involvement in an illegal scheme to import dinosaur fossils. The microraptor fossil was recovered when it was falsely listed as a “craft rock” and then as a “fossil replica” on a shipping manifest in an attempt to conceal its true identity. Prokopi was the owner of a business run out of his home and described himself in court as a commercial paleontologist. He served jail time for his part in the scheme and after release was subjected to 15 months probation.