antiquity
A cuneiform tablet seized by the US Customs and Border Protection. Five dealers have now been arrested in Jerusalem in connection with an investigation into illegally imported antiquities.

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Objects seized in raids on their premises in the east of the city included sculptures, pottery, figurines, coins and papyrus fragments, as well as a large amount of cash.

Israeli police said the dealers are suspected of producing false receipts and invoices for antiquities sold to the owner of Hobby Lobby and also of tax evasion.

The investigation was conducted jointly with US authorities after it emerged last month that Hobby Lobby agreed to purchase more than 5500 items, some of which had originated in the area of modern-day Iraq and were smuggled into the US through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel, contrary to federal law.

The documents filed in a US court revealed that Hobby Lobby began to assemble a collection of historically significant manuscripts, antiquities and other cultural materials in around 2009. It has been reported that Hobby Lobby president Steve Green planned to display the collection in the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC.

Last month the United States Attorney’s Office announced that Hobby Lobby had been fined $3m after surrendering the items and accepting responsibility for its conduct. Hobby Lobby has now agreed to introduce new purchasing procedures and consented to submitting quarterly reports to US authorities on any cultural property acquisitions for the next 18 months.