ICE returns ancient artifacts to Egypt at National Geographic Society
WASHINGTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) repatriated dozens of illegally smuggled ancient artifacts to the government of Egypt, including a Greco-Roman style Egyptian sarcophagus, at a ceremony Wednesday at the National Geographic Society in Washington. The return of these ancient artifacts was made possible by “Operation Mummy’s Curse,” an ongoing five-year investigation by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) targeting an international criminal network that illegally smuggled and imported more than 7,000 cultural items from around the world.
“Preserving mankind’s cultural heritage is an increasingly difficult challenge in today’s society. To think that some of these treasured artifacts were recovered from garages, exposed to the elements, is unimaginable,” said ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña. “It is an honor for ICE to investigate these kinds of cases and to assist other countries in preserving their heritage.”
On Sept. 8, 2009, HSI New York recovered the nesting sarcophagus from a garage in Brooklyn, New York. One year later, on Sept. 24, 2010, following leads from the Brooklyn case, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport seized a shipment of smuggled Egyptian goods, including a funerary boat model and figurines. A related December 2010 shipment interception netted agents 638 ancient coins from different countries, 65 of which are being repatriated to Egypt today.