People December 7, 2016 | 3:41 pm

US returns 23 pre-Columbian Taino artifacts

San Juan, Puerto Rico – Twenty-threepre-Columbian Taino cultural artifacts illegally imported to the United Stateswere returned to the Dominican Republic Dec. 6, during a repatriation ceremonyspearheaded by Ambassador James W. Brewster. U.S. Immigration and CustomsEnforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), working jointlywith U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in San Juan, conducted theinvestigation that led to the seizure and subsequent of the cultural pieces.

The 23 pre-Columbian artifacts werepresented at the headquarters of the Ministry of Culture in Dominican Republicduring an activity chaired by the United States ambassador, the Minister ofCulture Pedro Vergés and the HSI Special Agent in Charge in Charge in PuertoRico, Ricardo Mayoral.

“The Tainan pieces we have here aretestament to the rich heritage of this nation and its indigenous roots,” saidAmbassador Brewster. “The repatriation of these artifacts guarantees thatDominicans will be able to observe and learn from the traditions of theirancestors.”

“Today, after several years since itsseizure in Puerto Rico in 2008 and 2010, we are returning to its rightfulowner, the Dominican Republic, 23 pre-Columbian pieces that were transported toPuerto Rico through the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport and private mailservices from the Dominican Republic,” said Ricardo Mayoral, special agent incharge of HSI San Juan.

Among the repatriated pieces are a vesseldating from 1200 to 1450, petaloid axes, a chisel, a petaloid wedge and a conebeater, among others.

HSI plays a leading role in criminalinvestigations that involve the illicit importation and distribution ofcultural property, as well as the illegal trafficking of artwork, specializingin recovering works that have been reported lost or stolen. HSI’s InternationalOperations, through its 69attaché offices in 47 countries, works closely withforeign governments to conduct joint investigations.

HSI’s specially trained investigatorsassigned to both, domestic and international offices, partner with governments,agencies and experts to protect cultural antiquities. They also traininvestigators from other nations and agencies to investigate crimes involvingstolen property and art, and how to best enforce the law to recover these itemswhen they emerge in the marketplace. Those involved in the illicit traffickingof cultural property, art and antiquities can face prison terms of up to 20years, fines and possible restitution to purchasers of the items.

Since 2007, HSI has repatriated more than8,000 items to more than 30 countries.

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