Tyrannosaurus bones smuggled from Mongolia to get free ride home
By The Associated Press
Published: Monday, May 6, 2013, 9:36 p.m.
NEW YORK — It may be the first time a dead dinosaur is flying for free.
U.S. authorities in New York are returning a 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus skeleton to the Mongolian government this week.
The artifact will be flown to its native land free of charge via Korean Air, U.S. and Mongolian officials said Monday in announcing the repatriation of the priceless artifact.
“We are very pleased to have played a pivotal role in returning Mongolia's million-dollar baby,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. “Of course, that million-dollar price tag, as high as it is, doesn't begin to describe the true value of an ancient artifact that is part of the fabric of a country's natural history and cultural heritage.”
The skeleton had been looted from Mongolia's Gobi Desert and illegally smuggled into the United States by fossils dealer Eric Prokopi, authorities said. Prokopi, who bought and sold whole and partial dinosaur skeletons out of his Florida home, illegally imported the bones into the United States then assembled them into a skeleton, authorities said.
The dinosaur was seized by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents after it was sold at auction in New York for more than $1 million last year. The government said the skeleton was mislabeled as reptile bones from Great Britain.
By law, any dinosaur fossils found in Mongolia belong to the country and its people.
“It's really important that as nations, we recognize there's a difference between art sold in the regular course of business, and then there are things that are truly national heritage,” said ICE Director John Morton.
Prokopi, of Gainesville, Fla., pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy, the fraudulent transfer of the bones and making false statements to customs authorities.
Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj has thanked U.S. authorities for returning the dinosaur, which once stood 8 feet tall and was 24 feet long. It will eventually be displayed as a centerpiece of a new museum called Central Dinosaur Museum of Mongolia.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Sullivan case still relied on in libel claims
- World War II veteran receives once-declined Purple Heart
- Immigrant detainees on hunger strike
- John Denver tune finally an ‘official’ W.Va. state song
- Flubbed ‘stifling’ finally ends 29-round spelling bee
- Former National Security Agency contractor Snowden’s leaks to cost billions, take years to fix
- El Nino could bring relief to U.S.
- ‘Holy grail of guitars’ for sale in April auction
- California man named as bitcoin creator denies involvement
- Spyware in government computers ‘has Russian paw prints all over it’
- Deputy accused of illegal stops