A collection of Iraqi artifacts and antiquities from the Saddam Hussein era was sent back to Iraq on Thursday, after it was discovered that they were illegally smuggled into the U.S.
The items include ancient terra cotta plaques, A Western Asiatic necklace dating back to the second or third century B.C., a Saddam Hussein medallion and two government seals of Hussein.
Investigators from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement tracked down the finds in four separate investigations over several years. At Thursday’s ceremony, around 30 items were returned but thousands more are still missing.
It’s estimated that 15 thousand pieces were stolen from Iraq’s National Museum during pillaging that took place after U.S. led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Thousands of pieces were believed to have been smuggled out by U.S. military personnel and contractors.
[Ronald Hosko, FBI Washington Field Office]:
“This is a great day for the FBI. This is a huge plus for us because with a little bit extra effort by some investigators, we got our hands on these antiquities that are priceless. So in addition to identifying a significant fraud scheme – a contract fraud scheme – we get to return to the people of Iraq these priceless ancient artifacts. That’s a great day for us.”
More than half of the artifacts that turned up in other countries have also been returned to Iraq.