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Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities Investigations
03/03/2016

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ICE returns Stalin letter, Peter the Great decree and more to Russian Federation

ICE returns Stalin letter, Peter the Great decree and more to Russian Federation
ICE returns Stalin letter, Peter the Great decree and more to Russian Federation
ICE returns Stalin letter, Peter the Great decree and more to Russian Federation

MOSCOW – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) returned twenty-eight documents from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to the Russian Federation. The documents were stolen from Russian State Archives and listed for sale by auction houses, art galleries and individuals. All of the returned items were recovered by HSI offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco between 2006 and 2012. The ceremony was attended by U.S. Ambassador John Tefft, Ms. Galina Khabibulina, Deputy Head, Department of Servicing Arrangements, Rosarchive, Ms. Tatiana Goryacheva, Director of the Russian Government Archive of Literature and Art, Ms. Alexandra Olegovna Arakelova, Director, Department of Education and Science, Ministry of Culture, and HSI officials.

The repatriated documents include:

  • A signed order from Josef Stalin issued on March 14, 1944;
  • A decree signed by Peter the Great;
  • Numerous decrees signed by empresses and emperors dating from 1736-1893; and
  • 17 drawings by Russian architect Yakov Chernikov.
“A history as long and rich as Russia’s is both a global treasure and target. These items carry significant cultural and historical importance, making them appealing to criminal elements that abscond with them and sell them for a tidy profit.” said HSI Attaché Jason Cassidy. “HSI agents will continue to partner with foreign law enforcement to return these items to their rightful owners, in this case, the people of the Russian Federation.”

HSI plays a leading role in criminal investigations that involve the illicit importation and distribution of cultural property, as well as the illegal trafficking of artwork, specializing in recovering works that have been reported lost or stolen. HSI’s International Operations, through its 62 attaché offices in 46 countries, works closely with foreign governments to conduct joint investigations.

HSI's specially trained investigators, assigned to both domestic and international offices, partner with governments, agencies and experts to protect cultural antiquities. They also train investigators from other nations and agencies to investigate crimes involving stolen property and art, and how to best enforce the law to recover these items when they emerge in the marketplace. Those involved in the illicit trafficking of cultural property, art and antiquities can face prison terms of up to 20 years, fines and possible restitution to purchasers of the items.

Since 2007, HSI has repatriated more than 8,000 items to more than 30 countries.

Learn more about HSI’s cultural property, art and antiquities investigations. Members of the public who have information about suspected stolen cultural property are urged to call the toll-free tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or to complete the online tip form.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 03/03/2016