Pre-Columbian Artifacts Seized by CBP are Returned to the Dominican Republic

San Juan, Puerto Rico— US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) made the official handout to the Consulate of the Dominican Republic of seven Pre-Columbian artifacts in a ceremony held from the Casa Blanca Museum in Old San Juan.

The Honorable Opinio Diaz, Consul of the Dominican Republic in Puerto Rico received artifacts that archeologists of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture concluded were made by the indigenous “taino” natives who populated the Caribbean during Pre-Columbian times.

“I am proud of the CBP Officers that were able to identify these priceless artifacts. It is our privilege to return these historical treasures to the Dominican Republic,” indicated Gregory Alvarez, Director of Field Operations for CBP in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “We will continue working with our state and federal partners to ensure we rescue these types of historical objects from the hands of those who profit on the theft of cultural property.”

CBP seized the items during various incidents from different passengers that arrived into San Juan and Mayaguez from the Dominican Republic.

“Investigating Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities is an important part of the HSI mission,” said Ivan Arvelo, HSI San Juan Special Agent in Charge. “The return of these artifacts to our brothers and sisters from the Dominican Republic are essential for the continued partnership between the two governments.”

Most countries have laws that protect their cultural property. Art/artifacts/antiquities; archeological and ethnological material are also terms used to describe this material. These laws include export controls and/ or national ownership of cultural property. Even if purchased from a business in the country of origin or in another country, legal ownership of such artifacts may be in question if brought into the United States.

Therefore, although they do not necessarily confer ownership, you must have documents such as export permits and receipts when importing such items into the United States.

U.S. law may also restrict the importation of specific categories of art/artifacts/antiquities like pre-Columbian monumental and architectural sculpture and murals from Central and South American countries.

Importation of such items is permitted only when an export permit issued by the country of origin is presented with the article. Purveyors of such items have been known to offer phony export certificates. Additional U.S. import restrictions may be imposed in response to requests from other countries.

CBP officers screen international travelers and cargo and search for illicit narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, counterfeit consumer goods, prohibited agriculture, and other illicit products that could potentially harm the American public, U.S. businesses, and our nation’s safety and economic vitality.