ICE Director Morton returns 21 stolen items to Russian Ambassador Kislyak
WASHINGTON - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton presented 21 historical documents to the Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak of the Russian Federation to the United States, in a ceremony at the Russian Embassy in the nation's capital. The documents, many of them signed by czars and czarinas, emperors and empresses, ranged from the 18th to the 20th century and were reported stolen from national archives in Moscow and St. Petersburg between 1994 and 2002.
ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) opened four investigations on five websites after receiving leads from the RosOkhranKultura, the Russian Government agency responsible for the protection of cultural heritage property. Documents were identified for sale or loan from Websites in Amherst, N.H., New Haven, Conn., Upland, Calif., Atlanta and New York City. Prices ranged from $300 to $15,000 per document.
"It is a great privilege and honor, on behalf of the United States, to return to the people of Russia a collection of historical documents that reflect their nation's history and rich heritage," said ICE Director Morton. "These are precisely the types of treasures that ICE's Cultural Property Art and Antiquities unit was established to identify, investigate and return to their rightful owners. ICE HSI continues to investigate many more from this stolen cache that are suspected of having been smuggled into our country."
Ambassador Kislyak said at the repatriation ceremony, "I would like to express my deep and sincere gratitude to the U.S. authorities and professionals of the Department of Homeland Security and personally to Mr. John Morton, Director of Immigration Customs Enforcement who accomplished great job to return these historic treasures to the people of Russia. We value your contribution to the strengthening of cooperation between Russia and the United States."