This is the most recent find and return. According to (ICE) “A ceremonial sword, looted in 2003 from Saddam Hussein’s personal office in Baghdad, was returned to the Republic of Iraq Monday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The sword, which had been smuggled into the United States by U.S. military personnel, was repatriated at a private ceremony held at Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily’s residence in Washington.
“Cultural property — such as the sword being returned today to the people of Iraq — represents part of a country’s history that should have never been stolen or auctioned,” said HSI Associate Director James Dinkins. “We will continue conducting these types of investigations to ensure that current and future generations aren’t robbed of their nation’s history.”
“On behalf of the government and the people of Iraq, I would like to express thanks and appreciation to the U.S. government and Homeland Security Investigations special agents – the soldiers behind the scene – and all of those who contributed in restoring this heritage that belongs to Iraq and its people,” said Ambassador Faily. “Today is one of these historic days that documents the deep relationship, cooperation and friendship between Iraq and the United States and also shows again the U.S. commitment for rebuilding Iraq and preserving its cultural heritage.”
The sword is a 43-inch embellished blade and sheath with gold inlaid Arabic writing along the edge of the blade that declares it to be a gift to Saddam Hussein. It was sold in October 2011 to the Amoskeag Auction Company (AAC) in Manchester, N.H., and advertised in their Jan. 7, 2012, auction catalogue as having been removed from Hussein’s personal office in the Iraqi military command complex in Baghdad by the U.S. Army 126th Military History Detachment after the regime fell in 2003. The catalog also said that the consignor was attached to the unit as a combat historian, that the sword was not claimed by the U.S. government and that the consignor was granted permission to keep the sword as a souvenir.”
Last month,”The Department of Justice today restrained the 1909 Pablo Picasso painting “Compotier et tasse” – estimated to be worth $11.5 million – on behalf of the Italian government. This action follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The restraining order was obtained in response to an official request by the government of Italy, pursuant to the Treaty between the United States and the Italian Republic on Mutual Legal Assistance in criminal matters for assistance in connection with its ongoing criminal investigation and prosecution of Gabriella Amati. Amati and her late husband, Angelo Maj, were charged by the Italian Public Prosecutors’ Office in Milan with embezzlement and fraudulent bankruptcy offenses under Italian law, and Italian prosecutors have obtained a restraining order for the Picasso painting in connection with the criminal proceeding.
According to documents filed in the Italian criminal proceeding, Amati and Maj, in collaboration with a public official of the City of Naples, Italy, employed various schemes to misappropriate tax receipts collected for Naples by companies the couple controlled. In addition, the Italian prosecutors alleged that Amati and Maj orchestrated a number of schemes to embezzle Naples’ tax revenue including the use of fraudulent service contracts, forged accounting records, inflated operational expenses, and fraudulently claimed refunds to Naples taxpayers, all to justify transfers to the couple’s own bank accounts of the taxes that were collected for the city, resulting in a loss of approximately 33 million euros ($44 million) to Naples.
On May 21, HSI special agents in New York located and recovered the painting, which was being offered for private sale in the amount of $11.5 million.
An application to enforce the Italian restraining order was filed June 21 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeking to restrain the Picasso painting belonging to Amati and Maj and located in New York City. U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska granted the U.S. government’s application and issued a restraining order prohibiting the removal, sale or disposition of the Picasso painting from the court’s jurisdiction. The United States is working in close cooperation with the Italian Public Prosecutors’ Office in Milan, the Justice Department’s Attaché in Rome and HSI Attaché Rome to forfeit the painting in an effort to repatriate the Picasso to Italy.
“Restraining this valuable artwork is an effort to help recover some of the estimated $44 million that this couple stole from the tax-paying citizens of Naples,” said ICE Director John Morton. “We are very pleased that our investigation has led to the recovery of this painting that is so significant to the Italian people. This is an example of the fine work of our HSI cultural repatriation special agents. We will continue our efforts to return stolen antiquities to their rightful owners.”
“Restraining this Picasso painting is yet another example of the Justice Department’s close partnership with law enforcement around the world,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman. “Our asset forfeiture section is committed to finding and securing every last penny of criminal proceeds and putting those ill-gotten proceeds back in the hands of victims, regardless of where they reside.”
“We are pleased to have played a role in securing this valuable work of art by the celebrated artist, Pablo Picasso, on behalf of the Italian government,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara. “Our commitment to ‘taking the profit out of crime’ transcends national boundaries and is the operating principle of our asset forfeiture program.”
Also last month, “Federal officials and representatives from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington announced the seizure of a long-lost diary kept by a close confidant of Adolph Hitler. The recovery of this historical document was the result of an extensive investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The “Rosenberg Diary” was written by Alfred Rosenberg, one of the most notorious members of the Third Reich and of the Nazi Party during World War II. Rosenberg was privy to much of the planning for the Nazi racial state, mass murder of the Jewish people, planning and conduct of World War II and the occupation of Soviet territory. As such, his diary entries could provide historians with a potential wealth of previously unknown information regarding the history of this period.”
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