US Agents Seize Tyrannosaurus Skull in Fossil Smuggling Bust

US authorities plan to return the skull and vertebrae of an Alioramus dinosaur, a relative of the iconic Tyrannosaurus Rex, to Mongolia after Customs and Border Protection agents became suspicious of the French company importing them into the US.

France’s Geofossils Inc. had sent the 70-million-year-old fossils, via UPS, to a storage facility in Long Island City, Queens, declaring them in customs documents to be mere replicas of the ancient Mongolian carnivore’s bones, the New York Daily News reports. Now a lawsuit has been filed in Brooklyn Federal Court seeking the seizure and repatriation of the fossils to Mongolia.

When Geofossils was contacted by US agents regarding the bones, the French company admitted that even though it had told UPS that the contents of its shipment was to be sold for $3,400, the Alioramus fossils were actually slated to be sold for $250,000. Documents provided by the company described the contents of Geofossils’ shipment as a combination of Tarbosaurus fossils and traditional dwellings.

“Property of cultural and historic significance that has been stolen from other countries will not find safe harbor in our ports,” Loretta Lynch, US attorney in Brooklyn, said in a statement. “We are proud of our ongoing role in the repatriation of stolen and smuggled cultural property to its rightful owners…The extraordinary fossils that continue to be unearthed in Mongolia are not only a source of national pride for the Mongolian people, they are the property of the Mongolian people.”

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