U.S. Sues to Return Dinosaur Skeleton to Mongolia

Federal prosecutors are suing an auction house over a dinosaur skeleton they say was looted

By Andrew Wine
|  Tuesday, Jun 19, 2012  |  Updated 12:45 PM EDT
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The federal government has sued an auction house to get this Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton returned to Mongolia.

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There's an international battle brewing over an auctioned-off Tyrannosaurus skeleton, and now the federal government is getting involved.

A federal prosecutor has sued the auction house that, over protests by the Mongolian government, sold the Jurassic behemoth for more than $1 million last month.

The suit the United States Attorney in New York filed Monday against Heritage Auctions claims the nearly complete Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton was looted out of its Mongolian home some time between 1995 and 2005.

This dinosaur was erroneously imported into the U.S. from Great Britain in 2010, when it was valued at $15,000, according to the suit.

“Cultural looting and profiteering cannot be tolerated anywhere, and this cooperation between our governments is a large step forward to stopping it," Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj was quoted as saying in a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

It was sold at auction on May 20 for $1 million — despite a restraining order from a Texas judge blocking its sale, according to the federal suit, and efforts by the Mongolian government to the return of the skeleton.

The cofounder of the auction house said the sale was made contingent on the outcome of any future court action, in an effort to cooperate with authorities. He said he believed the auction house's consignor had sold the skeleton in good faith.

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