ICE returns stolen and looted art and antiquities to Italy "We will continue to work to ensure cultural artifacts and treasures that were stolen and entered this country illegally are recovered and returned to their rightful home nations."
PoliticalNews.me - Apr 27,2012 - ICE returns stolen and looted art and antiquities to Italy
WASHINGTON — Seven stolen and looted objects of Italian cultural heritage will soon be on their way back to Italy, following a ceremony Thursday in which U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano officially returned the antiquities to Italian Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero at the Embassy of Italy in Washington.
Two 2,000-year-old ceramic vessels, one Roman marble sculpture, one Renaissance painting and three music sheets from choir books dating back to the 13th century were recovered during four investigations by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). All four of the investigations involved the collaboration of ICE's offices in New York and Rome and Italy's national police force, the Carabinieri.
"The United States and the Department of Homeland Security are proud to honor our commitments to our ally, Italy," said Secretary Napolitano. "We will continue to work to ensure cultural artifacts and treasures that were stolen and entered this country illegally are recovered and returned to their rightful home nations."
"The return of several important stolen works of art to Italy marks a new step in the fruitful bilateral collaboration between Italy and the United States. It is an event that falls within the framework of a well consolidated partnership in which our two countries successfully work side by side against all forms of criminal activity," said Ambassador Bisogniero. "Given the quality of some of the antiquities that have been returned," continued the ambassador, "the ceremony held today at the embassy should also be viewed as a chapter of the vital cultural relationship between Rome and Washington."
ICE Director John Morton, Commander of Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage General B. Pasquale Muggeo and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sharon Levin, Chief of the Asset Forfeiture Unit, U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, also participated in the repatriation ceremony.
"Conducting these investigations and heralding their results sends a strong message. ICE is serious about reining in art and antiquity thieves, smugglers, and traffickers," said Morton. "Together with the Carabinieri and agencies like Interpol, the Department of Justice, and our sister agency U.S. Customs and Border Protection, we intend to turn the tide on art and antiquity thieves."
"The operational success of the investigations made it possible not only to return important masterpieces to the Italian State which had been stolen from its national cultural heritage but, once again, highlights the fruitful and close co-operation which exists between the Protection of Cultural Heritage Carabinieri's Headquarters and U.S. authorities in their common endeavor to rebuild and hand down to posterity," said General Muggeo.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, "In securing the forfeiture of these important objects of Italian cultural property and returning them to the Italian government, we are giving back to the Italian people a small piece of their history — and that could not be more gratifying. The work we do with our law enforcement partners in the United States and throughout