15 September 2009

US immigration returns contraband fossils to China

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US immigration officials have returned to China ancient fossils, including the bones of a saber-toothed cat, part of a dinosaur skull, and dinosaur eggs, that were smuggled into the US illegally.

US immigration

US immigration officials have returned to China important fossils.

The undocumented fossils, dating from as early as 100 million years ago, had been shipped into the US in two loads before US immigration and customs officials in Chicago and Richmond uncovered and confiscated them.

The Homeland Security Department announced that the fossils were found during routine inspection of arriving cargoes, some are suspected of being intentionally brought in in violation of US import laws.

John Morton, an assistant secretary of Homeland Security, said "the attempt to remove them from China ran up against a network of national and international customs laws that are in place to protect against the theft of cultural property. We are pleased to return them to their rightful owners, the people of China."

The contraband fossils were officially returned with a ceremony at the Chinese Embassy in Washington where the Chinese Embassy's deputy chief of mission, Xie Feng, expressed gratitude to the US government.

"In recent years, China and the US have developed close cooperation in law enforcement and made steady progress and prominent achievements, particularly in the fields as counterterrorism, drug enforcement as well as combating other transnational crimes," Xie said.

Chinese officials are being sent to the United States to escort the fossils back to China.

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