Federal authorities return ancient coins to Bulgaria
May 21, 2013

NEW YORK – Hundreds of ancient coins that were smuggled into the United States are back in the hands of their rightful owner, the people of Bulgaria. The coins were stolen and smuggled from Bulgaria into the United States for sale to the highest bidder.

At a May 21 ceremony at the Bulgarian Consulate in New York, U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection returned 546 ancient coins to Bulgarian Ambassador Elena Poptodorova.

“It is a special privilege to receive today, on behalf of the Bulgarian people, a part of our rich antique patrimony that was unlawfully taken away from us,” said Poptodorova.

In September 2011, HSI special agents learned of a shipment of ancient coins from Bulgaria destined for the United States. HSI New York, in close coordination with CBP’s Customs Air Cargo Examination Facility, examined and seized the coins. An investigation of the coins revealed the shipment contained a false country of origin, a false description of the commodity and were undervalued.

The consignment of ancient coins is one of the channels and methods of illegal trafficking in movable cultural valuables originating from the territory of contemporary Bulgaria. The return of the coins to Bulgaria is a result of the active cooperation between the General Directorate for Combating Organized Crime within the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior, the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Bulgaria and the expertise of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

HSI is continuing to look for connections to organized crime related to stolen illicit propertyout of Bulgaria.