Hobby Lobby forfeits 245 additional Iraq religious artifacts.
Byline: Adina Genn
Hobby Lobby Stores, which has a presence on Long Island, voluntarily turned over to the U.S. government 245 smuggledIraq religious artifacts, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. In July of 2017, the Oklahoma City-based craft store agreed to pay a $3 million federal fine and forfeit thousands of ancient Iraqi religious artifacts smuggled from the Middle East that the government alleges were purchased in December of 20 and intentionally mislabeled for import. The 245 additional items were turned over Wednesday were part of thatagreement, according to U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue. Hobby Lobbys devout Christian owners have long shown an interest in the biblical Middle East and started to collect historically significant manuscripts, antiquities and other cultural materials from the region in 2009, according to a civil complaint filed in New York in 2017. Hobby Lobby President Steve Green is the owner of one of the largest collections of religious artifacts in the world and built aMuseum of the Biblein Washington, D.C., which opened in November. Greenand a consultant traveled to the United Arab Emirates in July 20 to inspect a large number of cuneiform tablets, a system of writing on clay tablets that was used in ancient Mesopotamia thousands of years ago, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Hobby Lobby which has a location in Commack and stores opening in Massapequa Park and Bay Shore, according to the company'swebsite had agreed to buymore than5,500 artifacts in December 20 for $1.6 million, the complaint says. Prosecutors said acquisition of the artifacts was fraught with red flags and that packages bore shipping labels that described their contents as ceramic tiles. A UAEdealer shipped packages containing the artifacts to three different corporate addresses in Oklahoma City. Five shipments that were intercepted by U.S. customs officials bore shipping labels that falsely declared that the artifacts country of origin was Turkey. In September 2011, a package containing about 1,000 clay bullae, an ancient form of inscribed identification, was received by Hobby Lobby from an Israeli dealer and accompanied by a false declaration stating that its country of origin was Israel. Hobby Lobby consented to the fine and forfeiture of thousands of tablets and bricks written in cuneiform, one of the earliest systems of writing, as well as other artifacts that prosecutors say were shipped without proper documentation, the complaint says. Prosecutors said Hobby Lobby has agreed to adopt internal policies for importing cultural property and training its personnel. The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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