Photo: Missing Peruvian Treasures
Today, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) returned a collection of cultural artifacts illegally imported into the United States from Peru. The artifacts were discovered as part of three separate investigations by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York and Denver.
ICE Assistant Director for International Affairs Luis Alvarez and CBP Acting Executive Director for the International Operations Division Abdias Ortiz, repatriated the artifacts to Peruvian Ambassador Luis Miguel Valdivieso Montano at their embassy in Washington.
“The antiquities we are returning today are more than mere objects. They are remarkable treasures of untold historical significance, which provide clues into the lives of our ancestors,” said Alvarez. “Sadly, the theft and trafficking of cultural artifacts is one of the oldest forms of organized cross-border crime.
“I would like to express my appreciation for this restitution, and the high level of cooperation that exists in this field between both countries,” said Ambassador Luis Miguel Valdivieso Montano.
Artifacts being returned include an 18th century Peruvian manuscript discovered by CBP officers after receiving an investigative lead from ICE HSI agents in New York and Peruvian officials. Acting on this lead, a CBP officer identified an individual arriving in Houston who had several previous records for possession of stolen papyrus manuscripts and an extensive travel history to and from Peru. After a baggage inspection, a CBP officer discovered an old book. The book was detained to determine its value and origin. In May 2010, this individual passed away. In June 2010, ICE HSI received confirmation that the manuscript was stolen from the Recoleta Library in Araquipa, Peru. The book was forfeited.
Additional items being returned include:
Inca pottery vessel depicting a man with llama, A.D. 1400-1500;
Pot with a feline on one side and standing feline, A.D. 300-360;
Handmade textile and two headbands, likely excavated from graves along the Pacific coast of Peru, made from locally grown cotton;
Stone jaguar-human sculpture, 1200-1500 years old, likely Chavín or Moche in origin.
These items were also forfeited by the sellers. The repatriated artifacts are valued at more than $43,000.
A 1997 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the United Stated and Peru enables both countries to work closely together to prevent the illicit trafficking of archaeological objects. The MOU places import restrictions on pre-Columbian archaeological artifacts and colonial ethnological materials from all areas of Peru.