The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has repatriated 16 Peruvian artefacts, artworks and historic documents to the Peruvian government.
The haul includes three stone axe heads from the collection of Donald Miller, the “amateur archaeologist” whose 40,000-piece collection of Indigenous and South American artefacts was the subject of a high-profile raid in 2014.
Artworks returned to Peru include a 16th century painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe that was stolen from a church in Ollantaytambo in 2002 and smuggled into the US by an unidentified Bolivian art dealer. The painting is one of six otherwise unrecovered works stolen from the church; it traded hands via a New Mexico-based dealer who kept the work in his private collection, and was sold to a collector in California in 2016, according to an FBI report.
Another 17th century painting known as the Pentecost, which was stolen in 1992 along with other paintings from a church in Puna, was also returned. The work similarly traveled through New Mexico before it was bought by a California-based collector for $15,000 in 2009, although it is unclear if the incidents are connected.
Ten historic Peruvian documents, including military and naval certificates, were also recovered and repatriated. Officials were alerted of an eBay sale of the documents and interviewed a Florida-based seller who claims to have purchased the documents from a street market in Peru. The seller does not face criminal charges.
“All of these objects took an opaque route into the US and now have a clear path to Peru through proper diplomatic channels,” Kristi K. Johnson, the assistant director of the FBI Los Angeles branch, said during a repatriation ceremony held at the headquarters on 22 April.
She added, “The Peruvian people can properly behold and care for these objects, rather than have their fate dictated by the whims of individuals who remove them for personal gain and self-interest.”