WASHINGTON – United States officials returned on Wednesday 29 Pre-Columbian artifacts to Colombia following an investigation led the authorities to a nonagenarian who had been collecting the pieces for decades.
FBI Special Agent Maxwell Marker handed over the items in a ceremony at the Colombian Embassy in Washington.
The objects are part of a vast collection of nearly 1000 pieces from various cultures, particularly Native American tribes.
Marker said that the operation followed an anonymous phone tip leading to the illegal collection held by Indiana businessman Donald Miller, who seemed to own his “own personal museum.”
Miller opposed no resistance when the FBI knocked on his door, and said we would cooperate fully, but his death in March 2015 is making it hard to determine the origin of some of the objects.
Marker ruled out a criminal investigation, as Miller was the only suspect.
“This collector was a modern-day Indiana Jones,” Colombian ambassador to the US Francisco Santos joked. “He was a ninety-year-old man who had a museum. His hobby was to travel the world gathering these artifacts, literally stealing the cultural heritage.”
Santos thanked the FBI for their work and highlighted the importance of recovering these objects for his country.