U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Port of John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) International Mail Facility, with the help from officers at the National Targeting Center, Antiquities Unit seized a stone axe head and three metal swords on September 2, 2022.
The three metal swords arrived from Russia and the stone axe head arrived from Ukraine. The items were identified as Ukrainian culture property by representatives from the Ukrainian government.
“U. S. Customs and Border Protection is extremely proud to have played an important role in the seizing of these artifacts that were stolen from the people of Ukraine,” said Francis J. Russo, Director New York Field Operations. “CBP, working with Homeland Security Investigations continues to demonstrate its resolve to combat illegal trafficking in stolen artifacts.”
Most countries have laws that protect their cultural property, such as art, artifacts, antiquities, or other archeological and ethnological material. These laws include export controls and national ownership of cultural property. Therefore, although they do not necessarily confer ownership, consignees or importers must have documents such as export permits and receipts when importing such items into the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security enforces the cultural property import restrictions agreed to in bilateral agreements that the United States has concluded with 20 countries and through emergency import restrictions for three additional countries. These bilateral agreements protect cultural property by restricting U.S. import of certain categories of archeological and ethnological material, thus reducing incentive for looting at heritage sites.
Since the beginning of fiscal year 2023 to now, CBP at JFK has recorded 13 seizures of cultural property with a domestic value of over $1.1 million. CBP partners with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the detection, interception, investigation, and repatriation of cultural property.