By John Lee.
A US-based arts-and-crafts retailer has agreed to pay a $3 million fine for illegally importing thousands of ancient Iraqi artifacts smuggled into the US through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel.
in December 2010, Hobby Lobby executed an agreement to purchase over 5,500 artifacts, comprised of cuneiform tablets and bricks, clay bullae and cylinder seals, for $1.6 million. According to the US Department of Justice, the acquisition of the artifacts was "fraught with red flags".
In addition to the fine, the company has agreed to the forfeiture of all of the Artifacts shipped to the US.
Hobby Lobby President, Steve Green, said in a statement:
“We should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled ... We have accepted responsibility and learned a great deal."
The company added:
"In 2009, Hobby Lobby began acquiring a variety of historical Bibles and other artifacts. Developing a collection of historically and religiously important books and artifacts about the Bible is consistent with the Company’s mission and passion for the Bible.
"The goals were to preserve these items for future generations, to provide broad access to scholars and students alike to study them, and to share the collection with the world in public institutions and museums."
(Source: US DOJ, Hobby Lobby)