The Department of Homeland Security catches a lot of strange things coming into the country: a chainsaw, a speargun, a lipstick stun gun. The newest seizure by DHS might prove to the strangest one yet.
On Monday, DHS filed a lawsuit to force Dallas-based Heritage Auctions to return a Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton to Mongolia. The nearly complete skeleton, sold at auction for $1.05 million in May, entered the United States illegally 2010. According to the state court order, the dinosaurs owners claimed that the skeleton originated in the United Kingdom and was worth just $15,000. Experts now believe the skeleton was smuggled out of Mongolia sometime between 1995 and 2005.
According to a Mongolian law set in 1924, the export of dinosaur fossils is illegal. In effort to halt the sale, the government of Mongolia obtained a Temporary Restraining Order to prevent the auction.
Mongolian president Tsakhia Elbegdorj stated that he was pleased by Monday’s injunction: “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. Cultural looting and profiteering cannot be tolerated anywhere and this cooperation between our governments is a large step forward to stopping it.”
Photo: Barry Kidd/Flickr