According to an announcement from federal prosecutors, the well-known arts-and-crafts retailer Hobby Lobby will pay a $3 million fine. The reason for this is the illegal smuggling of thousands of ancient artifacts made out of clay. The retailer reportedly illegally brought them into the United States from Iraq. Hobby Lobby will have to give up on thousands of such artifacts among them being cuneiform tablets, clay bullae and some cylinder seals. The company labeled them all as “samples” which was not only illegal but also untrue. Back in December 2010, the arts-and-crafts retailer brought over 5,500 artifacts for about $1.6 million.
A fine for smuggled artifacts
The company, which has its base in Oklahoma, obtained the artifacts from an unidentified dealer in an acquisition deemed by prosecutors “fraught with red flags”. The court documents are also saying that the retailer received rather suspicious information about where the artifacts had been stored. Moreover, none of its representatives met or even communicated with the supposed dealer. As for the payment, Hobby Lobby sent money to seven different bank accounts. It’s interesting to note that the company calls itself a Christian business because its owners are evangelical Christians. Back in 2014, it fought and won a long fight regarding the obligation of corporations to pay for contraception coverage. The company argued that if this violates their religious beliefs, a family-owned corporation wouldn’t have to pay.
The complaint is saying that the dealer, based in the United Arab Emirates, sent 10 packages to three different addresses in Oklahoma City. It’s interesting that the United States Customs and Border Protection later found five more shipments which falsely claimed that the artifacts were from Turkey instead of Iraq. In September 2011, a final shipment arrived at a Hobby Lobby address, from Israel this time.
A complicated situation
Moreover, the complaint says that before the deal, an expert warned the company that usually, people steal such clay artifacts from archaeological sites and then sell them. The retailer says that it began collecting a wide variety of bibles and other artifacts back in 2009. Their only purpose was to preserve them. President of the company Steve Green said that they noticed something unusual in the way the dealer acted. Still, they sealed the deal. However, he admitted that they should have paid more attention and agreed to pay the fine.
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