Stolen Peruvian Artifacts Returned by Customs Officials

Some 25 artifacts smuggled in to the US from Peru were returned by US customs officials on Wednesday, the BBC reports.

The recovered artifacts, which date as far back as the 16th century, were put together as a result four separate customs investigations spanning the course of several years. Officials say the artifacts came into the country after a Peruvian man, who allegedly purchased the items from local farmers that looted them from their pre-Columbian burial sites, mailed most of the items to a smuggler in the United States for distribution.

Officials from both countries are heralding the investigation as a “moral triumph,” saying that the results of their combined efforts resulted in a restoration of justice for the people of Peru.

“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,” Thomas Winkowski, the acting director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said. “ICE remains a committed partner in the effort to ensure that we investigate individuals involved in the illicit trade and objects like these are returned to their rightful owner.”

The lot—which included two Colonial-era Cusco paintings, a Chancay statue from 1200-1450 A.D., a funerary vessel from 100-1532 A.D., and some Incan artifacts taken from ancient Peruvian graves—is a part of over 7,000 stolen art and artifacts that, according to the BBC, have been returned to 27 other countries (including Peru) by US customs since 2007.


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