The U.S. government is on the hunt for a Tyrannosaurus Bataar.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara filed suit Monday to force the return of the dinosaur’s skeleton that feds say was stolen from Mongolia and then sold for more than $1 million in the U.S. on false claims that the fossil originated from Great Britain.
The lawsuit alleges the skeleton was discovered in the Gobi Desert between 1995 and 2005 and has enormous historic and cultural significance.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Heritage Auctions completed the auction and the Tyrannosaurus Bataar Skeleton for over $1 million, but the final sale is contingent upon the outcome of any court proceedings instituted on behalf of the Mongolian Government.
A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office stated:
On March 27, 2010, the Tyrannosaurus Bataar Skeleton was imported into the United States from Great Britain. The customs importation documents contained several misstatements. First, the country of origin of the Tyrannosaurus Bataar Skeleton was erroneously listed as Great Britain but, according to several paleontologists, Tyrannosaurus bataars have only been recovered in Mongolia. In addition, the Tyrannosaurus Bataar Skeleton was substantially undervalued on the importation documents. The customs importation forms listed its value as $15,000, in contrast to the $950,000 – $1,500,000 price listed in a 2012 auction catalog, and the actual auction sale price of $1,052,500. Finally, the Tyrannosaurus Bataar Skeleton was incorrectly described on the customs importation documents as two large rough fossil reptile heads, six boxes of broken fossil bones, three rough fossil reptiles, one fossil lizard, three rough fossil reptiles, and one fossil reptile skull.
Texas-based Heritage Auctions, Inc., offered for sale the Tyrannosaurus Bataar Skeleton at an auction conducted in New York City. Prior to the sale, the Government of Mongolia sought, and was granted, by a Texas State Civil District Judge, a Temporary Restraining Order prohibiting the auctioning, sale, release or transfer of the Tyrannosaurus Bataar Skeleton.
Notwithstanding the state court order, Heritage Auctions completed the auction and the Tyrannosaurus Bataar Skeleton sold for over $1 million. The sale, however, is contingent upon the outcome of any court proceedings instituted on behalf of the Mongolian Government.