Justice News

Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole Speaks at the Ceremony for the Cultural Repatriation of Peruvian Antiquities
Washington, DC
United States
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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Good afternoon. I am very pleased to join all of you in celebration of what can be accomplished when our domestic and international law enforcement partners share intelligence and combine resources in pursuit of a common goal. The recovery and repatriation of lost and stolen art to its rightful owner – whether to a private citizen or to a foreign government (as in this case) showcases what can be achieved when law enforcement partners from around the globe work together to do the right thing for all involved.

For the victim (or his heirs), the lost or stolen treasure is returned and a void is filled. For the law enforcement agencies involved, the experience builds upon and enhances the relationship for future investigative operations. And, for the countries involved, the joint effort builds trust, deepens ties, and generates goodwill for future engagements in other diplomatic and law enforcement arenas.

On behalf of the United States and the Department of Justice, I must first thank the Government of Peru for its cooperation and assistance in this and many other joint endeavors. With the safe return of these treasures to their rightful owner, the United States pledges our commitment to continue embracing and fulfilling our international responsibilities.

To that end, I want to thank ICE Director John Morton for his leadership -- and DHS’s vision and commitment -- in establishing and maintaining the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Cultural Property, Arts and Antiquities Program. This investment of resources and personnel is one that pays dividends well beyond any specific recovery or repatriation. I must also applaud the nine HSI Field Offices for their expertise in this area and for leading the coordinated investigative efforts that made this day possible.

I also want to add my and the Department’s thanks to the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Southern District of New York, the District of Delaware, and the Southern District of Texas for their exceptional – yet expected – work and level of commitment to this pursuit of justice. I also must thank the District of Delaware for its continuing willingness to collaborate with any district in need of assistance – especially in these austere budgetary times.

As for INTERPOL, for over 60 years, it has assisted our domestic and international law enforcement partners in this area by facilitating the sharing of information pertaining to cultural property. As with any criminal investigation, information sharing – particularly in real time -- is key. The Stolen Works of Art database developed by INTERPOL – with an inventory of over 40,000 items -- now reaches all 190-member countries and is available to the public online. That each member country contributes to this endeavor clearly demonstrates the level of international commitment to do right by our neighbors and friends throughout the global community.

Like other criminal acts, cultural property crimes are borderless and require a coordinated law enforcement response among countries. The paintings, monstrance, and other works of art being returned to the Government of Peru today date back to the 17th and 18th Centuries. They were stolen by those whose selfish acts and greed sought to deprive a people and the public of their cultural treasures. Today, the governments of the United States and Peru stand together – united in their cause – to right that wrong.

Thank you for inviting me to participate in this joyous occasion.