Two rare ceramic pieces can now be returned to the Government of Peru following an agreement by the United States and a New York-based collector of Peruvian pre-Columbian antiquities on November 2. The settlement resulted from an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The Peruvian government considers the items part of the country's cultural patrimony and believes they were unlawfully exported.
Acting on information from Peru, on August 5, 2009, ICE HSI special agents and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers seized two antiquities, and several other pieces, at John F. Kennedy International Airport as they entered the United States from Zurich, Switzerland. Agents promptly began an investigation into their provenance.
Working closely with leading experts in Peruvian pre-Columbian ceramics, law enforcement established that the two items had likely originated from the Jequetepeque Valley in Peru from La Mina or another archaeological site nearby in the Lambayeque area. The ceramics experts date the two pieces from between 300 and 360 A.D. These sites were looted in the late 1970s, and items from this area did not reach the art market until the early 1980s.
The investigation led ICE HSI and CBP to conclude that invoices created by the seller and exporter of record, Anton Roeckl, which indicated that Roeckl had purchased the property in Germany in the late 1960s, were untrue.
As part of the settlement agreement, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York agreed to ask counsel for the Peruvian government to place the two repatriated items in a museum or other cultural institution in Peru.