Hobby Lobby settles DOJ case over artifacts from Iraq, pays big fine

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Hobby Lobby has resolved a civil action brought against the company by the Justice Department by agreeing to forfeit thousands of artifacts from modern-day Iraq and pay a $3 million fine.

According to the DOJ, Hobby Lobby received the falsely labeled artifacts from a supplier based in the United Arab Emirates.

Justice officials reported that the artifacts—ancient cuneiform tablets and clay bullae—were smuggled into the United States via the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

Cuneiform is a system of writing used in the ancient Middle East, and clay bullae are balls of clay on which seals have been inscribed.

The supplier falsely labeled the shipments as “ceramics” and “samples” and illegally shipped them to Hobby Lobby stores and two corporate offices.

On Wednesday, Hobby Lobby agreed to the settlement with the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

The arts and crafts chain said it cooperated fully with the investigation.

“In 2009, Hobby Lobby began acquiring a variety of historical Bibles and other artifacts. 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,” Hobby Lobby said in a statement.

“We should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled,” Hobby Lobby President Steve Green said in the statement. “Hobby Lobby has cooperated with the government throughout its investigation, and with the announcement of today’s settlement agreement, is pleased the matter has been resolved.”

Special agent in charge Angel Melendez, who led the investigation with the United States Attorney’s Office said, “The protection of cultural heritage is a mission that Homeland Security Investigations and its partner US Customs and Border Protection take very seriously as we recognize that while some may put a price on these artifacts, the people of Iraq consider them priceless.”

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