Cultural Property, Art, and Antiquities Program
U.S. federal customs laws provide HSI special agents the authority, jurisdiction and responsibility to take the leading role in criminal investigations that involve the illicit importation and distribution of stolen or looted cultural property. Through the Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities program (CPAA), HSI distributes investigative leads to special agents who work alongside international, federal, state and local partners, in addition to private institutions, to pursue individuals and networks who smuggle cultural property, art and antiquities.
HSI’s cases have included, but are not limited to, investigating and returning stolen modern art, looted sarcophagi and dinosaur fossils, and smuggled coins and ancient clay tablets.
HSI agents are trained in a partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Cultural Heritage Center and the Smithsonian Institution on the identification, authentication and handling of these objects and artifacts, which supports their return to their rightful owners through cultural repatriation. Since 2009, this collaboration has resulted in the training of more than 500 law enforcement personnel including customs officers and prosecutors.
Once a cultural property investigation is complete, HSI coordinates the return of smuggled objects or artifacts to their rightful owners. Since 2007, HSI has repatriated more than 20,000 objects to more than 40 countries.