Hobby Lobby to Pay $3 Million Fine for Smuggled Iraqi Artifacts


Hobby Lobby Stores has agreed to pay a $3 million fine and give up thousands of smuggled ancient Iraqi artifacts that the government charges were intentionally mislabeled. The Oklahoma-based arts and crafts supplies chain made a deal to buy over 5,500 artifacts, including tablets and bricks written in cuneiform, one of the earliest systems of writing, for $1.6 million in December 2010. Prosecutors said Hobby Lobby went ahead with the acquisition even after being warned by an expert it had hired that the artifacts might have been looted from historical sites in Iraq. A dealer in the United Arab Emirates shipped the packages containing the artifacts with labels that described the contents as "ceramic tiles," and some of the shipments intercepted by federal customs officials falsely said their country of origin was Turkey. Hobby Lobby President Steve Green says they, quote, "should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled." Green said Hobby Lobby began buying historical Bibles and other artifacts in 2009.

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