On Wednesday, May 2, 2018, the United States returned approximately 3,800 Iraqi artifacts to the Republic of Iraq at a repatriation ceremony at the residence of the Republic of Iraq’s Ambassador to the United States in Washington, D.C. The artifacts were smuggled into the United States for delivery to Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (“Hobby Lobby”), a nationwide arts-and-crafts retailer based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and two of its corporate affiliates. Hobby Lobby agreed to forfeit these artifacts and $3 million to resolve a civil forfeiture complaint and multi-year investigation by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Thomas D. Homan and Iraq’s Ambassador to the United States Fareed Yasseen signed the ceremonial certificates transferring ownership of the artifacts from the United States to Iraq. Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Ian Saunders, Acting Assistant Commissioner, Office of International Affairs, U.S. Customs and Border Protection also participated in the repatriation ceremony.