Hobby Lobby was found guilty of smuggling thousands of ancient Iraqi artifacts into the United States
Popular Oklahoma-based arts and crafts supplier Hobby Lobby purchased thousands of ancient Iraqi artifacts, including cuneiform writing tablets, in a $1.6 million deal in 2011.
The dealer, based in the United Arab Emirates, shipped the artifacts to three different corporate addresses in Oklahoma, although five of the shipments were intercepted by federal customs officials and were falsely marked as having originated from Turkey.
In September 2011, Hobby Lobby received about 1,000 ancient clay bullae from an Israeli dealer. The package falsely declared that it originated in Israel.
The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court accuses Hobby Lobby of engaging in a deal that was “fraught with red flags” and that the dealers of these rare and ancient items were not handled as they should be.
Part of the complaint read: “Cuneiform is an ancient system of writing on clay tablets . . . These clay tablets are generally not baked or fired and must be handled carefully to avoid damage.”
Hobby Lobby has agreed to comply with demands of the complaint, which include adopting internal policy for importing valuable cultural property.
President of Hobby Lobby apologizes
President Steve Green of Hobby Lobby stated on the official website that the company should have “exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled,” and noted that Hobby Lobby is complying with all government demands.
Since 2009, Hobby Lobby began pursuing historical artifacts such as ancient Bibles.
The company declared it had no intention to engage in any nefarious or illegal dealings.
”Developing a collection of historically and religiously important books and artifacts about the Bible is consistent with the Company’s mission and passion for the Bible. The goals were to preserve these items for future generations, to provide broad access to scholars and students alike to study them, and to share the collection with the world in public institutions and museums.”
”The Company . . . did not fully appreciate the complexities of the acquisitions process. This resulted in some regrettable mistakes.”