U.S. returns smuggled Peruvian artifacts

Thu May 12, 2011 4:52pm EDT
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An 18th-century manuscript, pottery dating to AD 300 and other smuggled artifacts were returned to Peru by U.S. Customs officials on Thursday.

The repatriated items -- worth approximately $43,000 -- were handed over at the Peruvian Embassy in Washington.

They included an Inca pottery vessel from the 1400s, a pot with feline designs from about AD 300, handmade textiles and two headbands possibly used in graves along Peru's Pacific coast, and a 1,200- to 1,500 year-old stone sculpture.

"The antiquities we are returning today are more than mere objects. They are remarkable treasures of untold historical significance, which provide clues into the lives of our ancestors," said Luis Alvarez, assistant director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In the case of the 18th-century manuscript, the investigation involved ICE agents in New York and Denver, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Houston.

Based on leads from Peruvian officials and ICE agents, U.S. Customs searched an antiques dealer's luggage and found what would later be identified as a stolen manuscript from Recoleta Library in Araquipa, Peru.

The accused man passed away before authorities could prosecute him.

(Reporting by Wendell Marsh; Editing by Jerry Norton and Eric Beech)

<p>An 18th century manuscript dating back to A.D. 300 is seen in this undated handout photo released to Reuters May 12, 2011. The manuscript and other smuggled artefacts were returned to Peru by U.S. customs officials at the Peruvian Embassy in Washington, May 12, 2011. REUTERS/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Handout</p>