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April 28, 2023Washington, DC, United StatesCultural Property, Art and Antiquities Investigations

Ancient coins, miscellaneous materials returned to Bulgaria following HSI Newark-led investigation

left: HSI Deputy Assistant Director of International Operations David Magdycz and Bulgarian Ambassador Georgi Panayotov sign a certificate of transfer for Bulgarian artifacts during a repatriation ceremony April 25, 2023. | right: Bulgarian Ambassador Georgi Panayotov expresses his gratitude to American law enforcement officials for returning Bulgarian artifacts during a repatriation ceremony April 25, 2023.

WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Newark and representatives from HSI's Cultural Property, Art, and Antiquities (CPAA) program; the U.S. Department of State; and U.S. Customs and Border Protection conducted a repatriation ceremony April 25, 2023, hosted by the Bulgarian ambassador, to return ancient coins and other miscellaneous materials seized by U.S. law enforcement officials to the Bulgarian government.

“HSI is proud to return 3,000 artifacts to the people of your country — our largest repatriation of cultural artifacts to Bulgaria so far,” said HSI Deputy Assistant Director of International Operations David Magdycz. “These remarkable objects represent the breadth of historical periods from the last 2,400 years. They include artifacts made from gold, silver, bronze and iron, including jewelry from Thrace, Roman coins from Balkan mints, Byzantine crosses, and medieval keys and horse trappings — all of them evidence of the daily lives led by the peoples and civilizations inhabiting your land.”

In 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers assigned to the Port of New York/Newark International Mail Facility seized the antiquities in coordination with the HSI Newark Trade Investigations group after identifying them in a mail parcel.

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Bulgaria to the United States of America Georgi Panayotov expressed gratitude to the American law enforcement community, whom he called allies, citing their cooperation in returning the items to Bulgaria.

“Today is a very special day because the United States is making this gesture and, rest assured, this will be highly appreciated back home,” Panayotov said, standing near the table displaying all the repatriated artifacts. “Many countries catch our items from Bulgaria but not many turn them back, so it is very important to us.”

One of the HSI CPAA program’s primary goals is to protect and preserve the world’s cultural heritage and knowledge of past civilizations. CPAA conducts training and outreach, supports cultural property investigations, and enhances international relations by working with foreign governments and citizens to return their looted cultural heritage and stolen artwork.

Since 2007, HSI investigations have led to the repatriation of over 20,000 objects to more than 40 countries and institutions. The repatriated objects have included paintings, sarcophagi, statues, coins and illuminated manuscripts.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.