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Home » Security » More than just drugs and migrants. CBP seizes 1,000-year-old Iranian artifact

More than just drugs and migrants. CBP seizes 1,000-year-old Iranian artifact

A subject matter expert found the antique bottle was from Iran and made somewhere between the 11th and early 13th centuries. PHOTO: CBP

PortandTerminal.com, June 7, 2020

CBP recorded 23 seizures of cultural property during 2019 with a domestic value of nearly $1 million. Here are two recent examples.

LOUISVILLE, KY – A lot of the reporting we do on seizures made by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seems to center around illegal drug seizures and stopping migrants from entering into the country.

CBP does a lot more than that though as a recent seizure at in Louisville, Kentucky proves.

Border Patrol in Louisville intercepted an ancient amber glass bottle shipped from the United Kingdom to Colorado.

Ancient glass bottle
A subject matter expert found the antique bottle was from Iran and made somewhere between the 11th and early 13th centuries. PHOTO: CBP

A subject matter expert found the antique bottle was from Iran and made somewhere between the 11th and early 13th centuries.

The shipment was seized for Office of Foreign Asset Control Violations which prohibit importing goods or services from Iran.

“Indiscriminate vendors are often willing to overlook international safeguards that preserve the importance of keeping antiquities within their rightful community,” said Assistant Area Port Director Eugene Matho. “Our officers are trained to recognize antiquities and ensure their safety and sanctity from illicit traders. CBP is proud to return this artifact and help restore the Iranian cultural heritage.”

Generally, merchandise from Cuba, Iran, Burma (Myanmar), or most of Sudan is not allowed. Any merchandise from these countries requires a specific license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

CBP returns ancient coins to Cyprus

In another incident back in February, CBP Baltimore Field Office returned seven ancient coins, dating back to 81 BC, to the Embassy of Cyprus.

CBP officers from the Area Port of Baltimore initially encountered the ancient coins in April 2009 during an inspection of air cargo that arrived from London. This specific parcel was destined to a coin collector in Missouri.

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.

In May 2009, the consignee admitted to not possessing authority from the government of Cyprus to import the artifacts, and CBP officers seized the coins.

The coin collector lost a protracted legal challenge to regain possession of the coins and CBP’s Office of International Affairs coordinated with the government of Cyprus to repatriate the coins during a ceremony in February at their Embassy in Washington, D.C.

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