The Colombian government repatriated 40 pre-Columbian artifacts that were smuggled out of the country by an antiquities collector, known to the FBI as Donald Miller. After months of intelligence gathering by the U.S law enforcement agency, the items, some dating back to 1,500 B.C, were recovered during a raid in Indiana.
“The process of transporting and packing these items was very complex due to their high patrimonial value,” remarked FBI special agent Jacob Archer. Along with the pre-Columbian items, the FBI’s art crimes unit also confiscated cultural artifacts belonging to New Guinea, Russia and China.
Colombia’s Minister of Culture, Carmen Vásquez, received 29 pre-Columbian pieces belonging to the Tayrona, Sinú and Quimbaya cultures during a ceremony at the National Museum in Bogotá, accompanied by Aleisha Woodward, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Cultural and Educational Affairs of the United States Department of State. Ambassador Francisco Santos presided over a ceremony at the Colombian Embassy in Washington of the remaining 11 ceremonial artifacts.
“The illicit trafficking of cultural heritage is a serious problem that affects all nations and undermines the identity of peoples,” remarked Vásquez. “When patrimony is trafficked illegally, it undermines the possibility of building memory.”
According to the U.S government official Aleisha Woodward, “Colombia continues to be an excellent partner with bilateral agreements that benefit the preservation of cultural heritage and which contributes to building the historical value of the nation.”
In addition to the hand-over of the pre-Columbian pieces, the Ministry of Culture and the Embassy of the United States installed the seminar Measures for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the National Museum.