A Tyrannosaurus Baatar skeleton that was stolen from the Gobi Desert and smuggled into the United States has been returned to the Mongolian government, U.S Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) said in a press release Monday.
The Bataar skeleton as well as other dinosaur fossils were smuggled into the U.S between 2005 and 2012.
The fossils — which sold for $1.05 million at a Manhattan auction – were seized by Homeland Security Investigations (ICE).
“This is one of the most important repatriations of fossils in recent years,” said ICE Director John Morton of the return of the invaluable fossils. “We cannot allow the greed of a few looters and schemers to trump the cultural interests of an entire nation.
The carnivorous Tyrannosaurus Bataar — which was originally named Tarbosaurus Bataar — was discovered by a Russian paleontologist in 1953.
Since 1924, all paleontological findings in Mongolia have been deemed government property. The export of culturally significant items is illegal in the country.
“After a year-long legal adventure and the worldwide publicity, the Tarbousaurus Bataar indeed became a hero dinosaur at home in Mongolia,” said Tsagaan Puntsag, Chief of Office of the President of Mongolia. “We are extremely excited to accept it from HSI and are very grateful to all the organizations and individuals who helped make it happen.”
ICE has returned over 6,600 smuggled artifacts to their countries of ownership since 2007.