Hobby Lobby, a chain of retail arts and crafts stores, has agreed to pay $3 million and forfeit ancient artifacts that were smuggled into the United States, the Department of Justice said Wednesday.
“We should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled,” a statement from Hobby Lobby president Steve Green said. “We have accepted responsibility and learned a great deal.”
Around 2009, Hobby Lobby allegedly began collecting “historically significant manuscripts, antiquities and other cultural materials.” Green and a consultant reportedly went to the United Arab Emirates to inspect several cuneiform tablets — clay tablets that were used for writing in Mesopotamia, thousands of years ago — and other antiques that were up for sale.
According to the Justice Department’s statement, Hobby Lobby had been warned of the “conflicting information where the Artifacts had been stored,” raising the possibility they may have been looted by other parties from archaeological sites. In 2010, Hobby Lobby purchased over 5,500 artifacts for $1.6 million.
Representatives between the parties did not meet or communicate with the dealer — instead, Hobby Lobby reportedly wired funds to seven personal bank accounts “held in the names of other individuals.”