San Francisco agrees to return spiritual relics Thailand reported stolen

SAN FRANCISCO – The city and county of San Francisco have agreed to return a pair of religious relics to Thailand under an agreement with the United States, authorities said.

Originally part of ancient Thai temples, the 1,500-pound hand-carved lintels were reportedly illegally exported to the United States and donated to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco for more than 50 years, the US Attorney’s Office said in a press release.

In October, a three-year investigation by Homeland Security Investigations culminated in prosecutors filing a civil lawsuit for confiscation of the relics. The museum and the city, which owns the museum’s art collection, agreed to return the relics on Wednesday.

“The successful outcome of this investigation will help restore Thailand’s cultural heritage for the appreciation and study of this and future generations,” said Tatum King, special envoy for Homeland Security Investigations, in a statement.

“The theft and trafficking of cultural artifacts is a tradition as old as the cultures they represent,” continued King. “The return of a nation’s valuable cultural antiquities promotes goodwill among foreign governments and citizens while protecting the world’s cultural history and knowledge of past civilizations. In working with the US Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of California on this investigation, we have carefully tried to ensure that the relationship between the United States and Thailand remains one of mutual respect and admiration. “

Museum officials also expressed their satisfaction with the settlement.

“We are very pleased that these falls are returning to their country of origin,” said the director and CEO of the Asian Art Museum, Dr. Jay Xu, in a statement. “This deal will allow us to do what we have wanted to do for a while – return the falls to Thailand.”

In a press release, the museum said the civil lawsuit came as a surprise because prosecutors already knew of their plans to return the relics and legal action could have slowed those efforts. The museum also denied allegations that the relics were illegally exported, saying prosecutors “did not provide corroborative evidence”.

“The museum has agreed to the ultimate goal of returning the falls to their country of origin without agreeing to the DOJ’s misleading factual claims,” ​​the press release said.

The relics will be returned through the U.S. Department of Justice’s sacrifice remission program and will be displayed on return for the religious and cultural appreciation of the Thai people, according to prosecutors.

“I would like to thank San Francisco and the Asian Art Museum for their agreement to forfeit these treasures so that they can be returned to Thailand,” said US Attorney David Anderson in the statement.

“The United States is committed to returning stolen relics to nations that want to preserve their heritage,” Anderson continued. “We will use all of our powers, including civil confiscation, to ensure that misappropriated cultural property is returned to its rightful owner.”

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