Smuggled Hobby Lobby Artifacts to be Returned to Iraq
Washington, DC—Nearly 4,000 smuggled artifacts, bought by Hobby Lobby, will be returned to Iraq today in a ceremony at the residence of Iraqi ambassador to the U.S., Dr. Fareed Yasseen. Assistant Secretary Thomas Homan, Director of U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, will transfer custody of the artifacts, including cuneiform tablets and bricks and cylinder seals from ancient Sumerian sites. The Antiquities Coalition will attend the ceremony.
Hobby Lobby, a national chain of arts and crafts stores, purchased thousands of antiquities which were smuggled into the U.S. in violation of Federal law. The Hobby Lobby case highlights the large U.S. market for looted antiquities. This market fuels the international crisis of cultural racketeering—the looting and trafficking of ancient artifacts to fund crime, conflict, and terrorism—which threatens our world heritage and national security.
The not-for-profit Antiquities Coalition is fighting cultural racketeering with consumer education and its #BuyerBeware awareness campaign. The new awareness video, featuring a consumer unknowingly purchasing a piece of looted ancient art online, brings the issue of the illicit trade and its consequences into the homes of everyday people. “The #BuyerBeware campaign is making a huge impact in the Gulf, a growing market for ancient art, licit and illicit,” noted Antiquities Coalition Executive Director Tess Davis. “More than 65,000 views came from the video being shared just in the United Arab Emirates."
"Still, the U.S. remains the world's largest art market,” said Ms. Davis. “American consumers need to understand the dangers of buying antiquities, especially online. If Hobby Lobby, with its great resources, could not guarantee their purchasers were legal and ethical, how can an individual collector? When it comes to antiquities, let the buyer beware."
The Antiquities Coalition unites a diverse group of experts in the fight against cultural racketeering: the illicit trade in antiquities by organized criminals and terrorist organizations. This plunder for profit funds crime and conflict around the world—erasing our past and threatening our future. The Coalition’s innova