Sat, Jul 12, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Stolen dinosaur bones repatriated to Mongolia: US

AP, NEW YORK, New York

Two Gallimimus dinosaur skeletons are on display during a repatriation ceremony at the US Attorney’s Office of the Southern District in New York on Thursday.

Photo: Reuters

US officials on Thursday turned over to the Mongolian government enough dinosaur skeletons to stock a museum, including two relics of a type of dinosaur that a prosecutor said “memorably stampeded” in a Hollywood movie.

US Attorney Preet Bharara said the fossilized remains of more than 18 dinosaurs recovered by US authorities were transferred after a ceremony attended by Mongolia’s ambassador to the UN.

“This is a historic event for the US attorney’s office, in addition to being a prehistoric event,” Bharara said at the gathering.

James Hayes, special agent in charge of the New York office of Homeland Security Investigations, said at least 31 pieces of dinosaur remains are to be returned to Mongolian authorities eventually, after it was determined that they were illegally smuggled out of the Asian country between 2005 and 2012.

Hayes said the effort to intercept illegal shipments of dinosaur bones shows that the US “will not allow the illicit greed of some to trump the cultural history of an entire nation.”

He said the bones are to be displayed at a museum in Mongolia.

The bones were recovered after US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents discovered illegal shipments of mislabeled bones were being made into the US.

Hayes said Eric Prokopi, a commercial paleontologist from Virginia who pleaded guilty to federal charges, had disassembled some chunks of bones from a Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton to sneak them into the country, knowing he could easily put them together. Once assembled, the skeleton was sold at auction for more than US$1 million, before federal authorities seized it and returned it last year.

Prokopi, 39, who cooperated extensively and alerted authorities to many skeletons they did not know about, was ordered at a Manhattan court proceeding last month to serve three months in prison.

Bharara said the dinosaurs returned to Mongolia on Thursday included two Tyrannosaurus bataar skeletons, a dinosaur egg and two skeletons of Gallimimus, “the dinosaurs that memorably stampeded” in the movie Jurassic Park.

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