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Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities Investigations
08/01/2011

ICE HSI helps Egyptian law enforcement agencies counter antiquities trafficking

ICE Egyptian antiquities trafficking training
ICE Egyptian antiquities trafficking training
ICE Egyptian antiquities trafficking training
ICE Egyptian antiquities trafficking training

Egyptian archaeological sites, storerooms and other locations are under serious threats of pillage, theft and illicit trafficking. That's why U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) joined forces with the U.S. Embassy to Egypt to present a four day workshop titled "Countering Antiquities Trafficking at Egypt's Ports and Borders."

The workshop was designed to help improve Egypt's capacity to prevent the illegal export of cultural property through more effective implementation of export controls and law enforcement resources. The conference also aimed to increase dialogue and cooperation between Egyptian law enforcement agencies and provide a basis for a continued working relationship between ICE's attaché office in Cairo and Egyptian law enforcement.

Subject matter experts from ICE HSI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of State and Interpol provided instruction during the workshop, which also included presentations from Egyptian law enforcement officers and archeologists.

Thirty-five officers from four Egyptian law enforcement agencies – Egypt's Department of Homeland Security, Egyptian Customs, Egyptian Port Police and the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities for Inspections - attended the conference.

In addition to the aforementioned presentations, the workshop included visits to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and the Saqqara archeological site. While at the museum and Saqqara, archeologists from the Ministry of State for Antiquities gave lectures on the looting that occurred immediately after the January 25 revolution. Workshop members also witnessed the opening of a new exhibit featuring looted artifacts that were repatriated to the government of Egypt. One of the artifacts was a sarcophagus seized in 2008 by CBP officers assigned to the Port of Miami and subsequently investigated by HSI special agents. Ultimately, that investigation resulted in a March 2010 repatriation of the sarcophagus in a ceremony held at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC.

"The collaboration and partnership in the protection of Egypt's cultural heritage reflects the commitment and leadership of the people of Egypt and the United States," said Assistant Cairo Attaché Joseph Pieretti. "We are committed to rigorously investigating all illegally exported cultural artifacts, ending the plundering of Egyptian antiquities, and identify those involved to full extent of the law."