U.S. Customs Officials Return Stolen Coins to Saudi Arabia

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U.S. customs officials have returned 60 kilograms (132 pounds) of 13th century coins to Saudi Arabia after seizing the stolen artifacts from a Florida diver who illegally removed them from a shipwreck in the Red Sea more than 10 years ago.

“Artifacts such as these coins are not trinkets that can be pilfered and sold to the highest bidder,” said Julie L. Myers, assistant secretary of homeland security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “To their rightful owners, these artifacts are priceless items that are cherished and proudly displayed as a testament to their cultural history.”

Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Turki Al-Faisal said the coins reflect “Saudi Arabia’s unique history as an ancient trade center and as the birthplace of Islam.” He said the return of the antiquities shows the United States’ respect for cultural heritage.

After being confronted by ICE agents, a Florida man admitted to stealing the coins during a recreational dive in Saudi territorial waters in 1994. He surrendered the artifacts to customs officials in April 2005.

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