Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Newark, alongside representatives from the HSI Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities program (CPAA), the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) held a repatriation ceremony for seized ancient Cypriot pottery April 20, hosted by the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus in Washington, D.C.
“On behalf of HSI, I am honored to be returning yet another remarkable example of cultural property to the people of Cyprus,” said HSI International Operations Deputy Assistant Director Ricardo Mayoral. “We are returning an Oinochoe Iron Age jug from circa 800 to 600 B.C. Earlier this year, we also had the pleasure of returning two rare ancient Cypriot coins, one of which dated to 385 B.C., and a fragment of a fresco painting from the 18th century.”
In April 2022, CBP’s cultural property team at the National Targeting Center identified a shipment of potentially illicit antiquities from Cyprus and referred the shipment to HSI Newark for further investigation. HSI Newark special agents then worked with subject matter experts at the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and later with the Cypriot Department of Antiquities to identify the Iron Age jug believed to be illegally excavated and smuggled out of Cyprus.
“The teamwork and cooperation that exists between HSI and our partners in the domestic and global law enforcement and intelligence communities is essential to ensuring these, and other pieces of history are returned,” said Mayoral. “Our success in this area is sending a clear signal to criminal networks around the world that, no matter how long ago the theft occurred, we are determined to recover and return the priceless art and cultural artifacts that help define a nation’s history and heritage for future generations to enjoy.”
“Cypriot heritage has many stakeholders and protectors,” said Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus Marios Lysiotis. “This gathering of people from various fields — diplomats, agents, archaeologists, lawyers — is a testament to that, as well as to the wider importance of protecting cultural heritage and promoting international cooperation for cultural heritage preservation. Your efforts have ensured that these antiquities are safely returned to their place of origin, where they will be cherished and celebrated by the people of Cyprus and visitors to our island.”
One of the primary goals of the HSI CPAA program is to protect and preserve the world’s cultural heritage and knowledge of past civilizations. CPAA conducts training and outreach, supports cultural property investigations, and enhances international relations by working with foreign governments and citizens to return their nation’s looted cultural heritage and stolen artwork.
Since 2007, HSI investigations have led to the repatriation of over 20,000 objects to more than 40 countries and institutions. The repatriated objects have included paintings, sarcophagi, statues, coins and illuminated manuscripts.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.