Hobby Lobby to Return Smuggled Ancient Iraq Artifacts and Pay $3 Million Fine

Posted on July 6, 2017

Hobby Lobby, a U.S. arts and crafts retailer, has agreed to forfeit thousands of smuggled ancient artifacts from Iraq. Hobby Lobby will also pay in a $3 million fine in a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. They company acquired thousands of artifacts for its upcoming Bible museum through dealers in the smuggling operation.

BBC News reports that the artifacts included thousands of "cuneiform tablets and clay bullae." Images of some of the tablets and bullae are pictured above. The smuggled items were shipped to the US through the UAE and Israel to Hobby Lobby's Oklahoma headquarters. The labels on the shipments were falsified and said the items inside were "ceramic tiles."

Hobby Lobby said in a statement, "The company imprudently relied on dealers and shippers who, in hindsight, did not understand the correct way to document and ship these items." The company also said, "Developing a collection of historically and religiously important books and artifacts about the Bible is consistent with the Company's mission and passion for the Bible. The Company was new to the world of acquiring these items, and did not fully appreciate the complexities of the acquisitions process. This resulted in some regrettable mistakes."

Special Agent-in-Charge Angel Melendez said in a statement, "The protection of cultural heritage is a mission that HSI and its partner US Customs and Border Protection take very seriously as we recognize that while some may put a price on these artifacts, the people of Iraq consider them priceless."

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