(NOTES: Originally posted June 25, 2012. Re-posted here for archival purposes) 


(Left) Allegedly looted dino skeleton is headed back to Mongolia after posing as a British tourist. Photo courtesy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The feds seized a looted dinosaur skeleton. It seems the alleged smugglers tried passing it off as a British dino when it was really a Mongolian dino. Also, they left out a bunch of zeros when claiming it’s value on customs records. It went to auction and sold for more than $1 million while the investigation was ongoing.

Below is ICE’s release on the matter:

HSI takes custody of Tyrannosaurus dinosaur skeleton looted from MongoliaJune 22, 2012

NEW YORK — The nearly complete skeleton of a dinosaur was forfeited today to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations special agents.
The skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Bataar dinosaur (the Tyrannosaurus Bataar Skeleton) was looted from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. This forfeiture is the first step to the hopeful repatriation of the fossil to Mongolia.
“I thank and applaud the United States Attorney’s Office in this action to recover the Tyrannosaurus Bataar, an important piece of the cultural heritage of the Mongolian people,” said Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, president of Mongolia. “Cultural looting and profiteering cannot be tolerated anywhere, and this cooperation between our governments is a large step forward to stopping it.”

Criminal smugglers misrepresented this fossil to customs officials when they illegally imported it into the United States, said ICE Director John Morton.

According to court documents, the Tyrannosaurus Bataar, a native of what is now Mongolia, was a dinosaur from the late Cretaceous period, approximately 70 million years ago. It was first discovered in 1946 during a joint Soviet-Mongolian expedition to the Gobi Desert in the Mongolian Ömnögovi Province. Since 1924, Mongolia has enacted laws declaring dinosaur fossils to be the property of the Government of Mongolia and criminalizing their export from the country.

On March 27, 2010, the Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton was imported into the United States from Great Britain. The customs importation documents contained several misstatements. First, the country of origin of the Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton was erroneously listed as Great Britain. However, according to several paleontologists, Tyrannosaurus Bataars have only been recovered in Mongolia. In addition, the Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton was substantially undervalued on the importation documents. Customs importation forms listed its value as $15,000, in contrast to the $950,000 to $1.5 million price listed in a 2012 auction catalog.
Finally, the Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton was incorrectly described on the customs importation documents as two, large, rough fossil reptile heads; six boxes of broken fossil bones; three rough fossil reptiles; one fossil lizard; three rough fossil reptiles and one fossil reptile skull.

Texas-based Heritage Auctions Inc., offered the Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton for sale at an auction conducted in New York. Prior to the sale, the Government of Mongolia sought — and was granted by a Texas Civil District Judge — a temporary restraining order prohibiting the auctioning, sale, release or transfer of the Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton. Notwithstanding the state court order, Heritage Auctions completed the auction and the Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton sold for $1.052 million. The sale, however, is contingent upon the outcome of any court proceedings instituted on behalf of the Mongolian Government.

On June 5, at the request of the President of Mongolia, several paleontologists specializing in Tyrannosaurus Bataars examined the Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton and concluded it is a Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton that was unearthed from the Western Gobi Desert in Mongolia between 1995 and 2005. (6.25.12)

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