Hobby Lobby, the Oklahoma-based craft store chain, agreed to pay $3 million in fines to the federal government for thousands of Iraqi artifacts that were illegally smuggled into the U.S.
Federal prosecutors said that the historic artifacts were mislabeled “tile samples,” when they were in fact clay artifacts that were sold to Hobby Lobby.
The craft chain has devout Christian owners who have been keenly interested in collecting artifacts and historical cultural materials.
The federal government filed a civil complaint against the company Wednesday, saying the “acquisition of the artifacts was fraught with red flags.”
According to the complaint, an expert who was hired by Hobby Lobby warned the company that the antiquities were likely looted from Iraq. Despite these warnings, the suit says, the company agreed to purchase more than 5,500 artifacts for $1.6 million.
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In addition to paying the fine, Hobby Lobby has agreed to hand over some of the artifacts that were specified in the federal complaint.
“Our passion for the Bible continues, and we will do all that we can to support the efforts to conserve items that will help illuminate and enhance our understanding of this Great Book,” Hobby Lobby President Steve Green said in a statement.
The company also said it would also adopt policies focused on the training and education of importing historic artifacts. Green is currently building a Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., due to open in several months.
Since 2004, importing Iraqi cultural property into the United States has been banned. Iraqi law dictates that “no one is allowed to remove or transport any antiquity or heritage material” from Iraq without the country’s permission. Fears of Iraq’s antiquities being looted and sold rose following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
READ THE COMPLAINT