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April 15, 2022Detroit, MI, United StatesCultural Property, Art and Antiquities Investigations

US investigation leads to return of Madagascar fossils

DETROIT — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Detroit repatriated two ammonite fossils to Madagascar April 4.

The artifacts were transferred from HSI to Mr. Adoghi Pilaza, Diplomatic and Consular Agent for the Embassy of Madagascar in Washington, D.C.

In April 2015, HSI Cleveland special agents seized two ammonite fossil specimens after it was determined they were illegally imported from China. The special agents met with a subject matter expert at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to determine the fossil origins. The expert conducted a physical examination and chemical test on the suspected fossils and determined that they were fossil ammonites. It was determined the fossils were true fossil ammonoids based upon the spiral shape, preservation of the natural shell material (the mineral calcium carbonate) and lobe and saddle suture patterns. Based upon the research and comparison to the CMNH specimens, the fossils are inferred to be from Africa and or Madagascar.

As a federal law enforcement agency with a global reach, HSI is a leader in investigating crimes involving the illicit importation and distribution of cultural property and art. Federal importation and customs laws give HSI the unique authority to seize cultural property and art brought into the United States illegally. HSI uses a whole of government approach with our partners in this effort, including the Department of State, CBP, and the Department of Justice, as well as the private sector.

HSI works closely with foreign governments to conduct joint investigations and is committed to pursuing a strategy to combat transnational organized crime related to the illicit trafficking of cultural artifacts by targeting high-priority organizations and strengthening international law enforcement partnerships. Since 2007, HSI has repatriated more than 15,000 objects to over 40 countries and institutions. Members of the public who have information about the illicit distribution of cultural property, as well as the illegal trafficking of artwork, are urged to call the toll-free tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or to complete the online tip form.

About HSI

HSI is a directorate of ICE and 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 over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 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.

Updated: 08/24/2022