Nicolas Cage Returns $276,000 Stolen Skull to Mongolia
The actor has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Hollywood actor Nicolas cage handed over a rare Tyrannosaurus bataar skull to US authorities after it emerged that the fossil was illegally smuggled out of Mongolia.
A civil forfeiture complaint was submitted by Manhattan US attorney, Preet Bharara, to initiate the repatriation process.
Cage’s publicist told Reuters that the actor bought the dinosaur skull at auction for $276,000 from the Los Angeles gallery I.M. Chait in 2007, after he outbid fellow Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio.
Although he received a certificate of authenticity with the fossil, Cage was contacted by the Department of Homeland Security in July 2014 over the possibility that the skull may be a stolen specimen.
The actor’s publicist confirmed that Cage voluntarily turned in the skull after the item was found to have been illegally smuggled. Neither Cage nor the I.M. Chait gallery have been accused of any wrongdoing in the case.
However, according to the Guardian, I.M. Chait hs previously done business with convicted paleontologist Eric Prokopi, from whom the gallery reportedly bought and re-sold a smuggled dinosaur skeleton.
Bharara described Prokopi as a “one-man black market in prehistoric fossils.” The paleontologist pleaded guilty to smuggling in 2012 and was subsequently sentenced to three months imprisonment.
There is no implication that Nicolas Cage’s skull is connected to Prokopi. At the time of writing, the I.M. Chait gallery did not respond to artnet News’ request for comment.
The Tyrannosaurus bataar roamed the earth 75 million years ago. Like its larger relative Tyrannosaurus rex, the dinosaur was a carnivorous species. According to ABC News Tyrannosaurus bataar fossils have only been discovered in Mongolia. The country outlawed the export of dinosaur fossils in 1924.
Bharara’s office has beee involved in the repatriation of more than 12 dinosaur fossils in the last three years, including a similar Tyrannosaurus skull which was seized by US agents in September 2014. “Each of these fossils represents a culturally and scientifically important artifact looted from its rightful owner,” Bharara said.
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