Govermnent seek forfeiture of “One Ancient Mosaic”

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ancient mosaic depicting Hercules

LOS ANGELES – The United States in May filed an asset forfeiture complaint against an ancient mosaic depicting Hercules, believed to have been made in the 3rd or 4th Century, that likely was looted from war-torn Syria, allegedly illegally imported into the United States, and seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations at a Palmdale residence.

The mosaic, which is approximately 18 feet long and weighs approximately one ton, was seized by FBI and HSI special agents in March 2016 as part of an investigation into the smuggling of looted items believed to be from a foreign conflict area into the United States.

The complaint, which was filed in United States District court under the caption United States v. One Ancient Mosiac, alleges that a Palmdale man smuggled the antiquity into the United States with false and fraudulent documents with the intent to avoid import duties.



U.S. seeks looted Syrian artifacts

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Gold ring with carved gemstone. This ring is believed to be from the Hellenistic/Roman period, dating approximately from 330 BC to 400 AD, and to have come from Deir Ezzor, Syria, which is near where the raid against Abu Sayyaf occurred. Finger not included. Photo courtesy of Abu Sayyaf’s raided archives.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it was on the lookout for four artifacts it believes were looted from for Syria and sold to benefit war chests belonging to ISIS (also known as ISIL and De’esh).

The forfeiture complaint spells out how authorities traced the items thanks to the records of Abu Sayyaf, the late ISIS antiquities minister who was in charge of taxing and permitting looters who were taking advantage of chaos in the war-torn country to dig up ancient artifacts for profit.

The complaint goes on to describe how one of Sayyaf’s underlings even kidnapped the 16-year-old son of one of the antiquities merchants at gunpoint. This came following a dispute over tariffs on relics and gold that had been dug out of the ground with pick axes. In the end, Sayyaf was ordered to apologize to the boy’s family, and the underling was directed to go to shari’al law and military course.


Syria Mosaic Thefts

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Have you seen this man? INTERPOL seeks help in tracking down mosaic pieces looted from tumultuous Syria.
INTERPOL is throwing it’s weight behind the search for missing mosaic pieces and warning of threats to cultural artifacts as unrest continues in Syria, which is currently the fifth season of its Arab Spring uprising.

“INTERPOL calls on the particular vigilance of its 190 member countries as to the risk of illicit trafficking in cultural goods from Syria and neighbouring countries,” officials with the international police agency said in a release this week (yes, they had the “U” in neighbouring).

“Roman ruins, archaeological sites, historic premises and places of worship are particularly vulnerable to destruction, damages, theft and looting during this period of turmoil,” the release continued.

INTERPOL’s general secretariat drew particular attention to mosaics stolen from the ruins of Afamya in the city of Hama, and said the agency will include information about stolen artworks and cultural goods in its database.