FBI Announces Return of Pre-Columbian Artifacts

Printed below is the FBI press release announcing the return of Pre-Columbian artifacts identified to be from cultures in Peru and Ecuador. Some sites on the internet picked up on the press release and repeated it calling the man a smuggler. But the FBI press release never identified the man as a smuggler and never revealed the legal basis for the seizure of the property. There have been questions raised on the internet with no response offered by anyone directly involved with the case.

"FBI Announces Return of Pre-Columbian Artifacts to Peru and Ecuador
John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office today announced the return of 153 pre-Columbian artifacts to the countries of Peru and Ecuador. In a ceremony this morning, the artifacts were officially returned to the Peruvian and Ecuadorian governments. Representing Peru from the Peruvian Consulate in Miami was Jaime Arrospide, Deputy Consul General. Representing Ecuador from the Ecuadorian Consulate in Miami were Juan Carlos Toledo, Consul General, and Maria Veronica Endara, Vice Consul General.
Pre-Columbian art consists of pottery, baskets, jewelry, carvings, figurines, and sculptures that pre-date the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas. The pre-Columbian artifacts in this matter are considered by experts to range from 500 to 3,200 years old.
In April 2009, these artifacts were recovered from a retirement community in Avon Park, Florida. They were found in the home of a resident after he passed away. The FBI’s Art Crime Team was called in and took possession of the artifacts. Working with Florida International University (FIU), 141 of the items were determined to be from areas inside the borders of modern-day Peru and 12 pieces were determined to be from sites located in modern-day Ecuador. The artifacts were dated ranging from approximately 1200 B.C. until approximately 1500 A.D.
Special Agent in Charge John V. Gillies stated, “These artifacts represent the cultural heritage of Peru and Ecuador. They can never be replaced and should be on display for many to see, not locked away. We are honored to be able to return these artifacts to their rightful owners.”
The FBI established its Art Crime Team in 2004. The team is composed of 13 FBI special agents, each responsible for addressing art and cultural property crime cases in particular geographic regions. An Art Crime Team member is assigned to the Miami Field Office. Since 2004, the team has recovered more than 2,600 items in cultural property at a value of over $140 million."

We will try to follow up on this case to try and answer some of the outstanding questions, which should give collectors and museums some concerns.