US takes control of dinosaur skeleton in NY Friday

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — A dinosaur skeleton is scheduled to be taken by U.S. authorities on Friday from the custody of an auction house after a judge permitted its seizure for its likely return home to Mongolia.

Heritage Auctions Co-Chairman Jim Halperin said the Dallas-based company, the dinosaur's current custodian, looks forward to releasing the dinosaur after it was assured it will be properly and carefully transported and stored by the government in a secure, climate-controlled and fully insured art storage facility.

"We hope arrangements can be made for the public to view the Tyrannosaurus bataar at a museum or other convenient venue while efforts continue to reach a fair and just resolution," Halperin said Wednesday.

He said earlier this week that a consignor bought the fossils in good faith and spent a year and considerable expense restoring them.

Another buyer agreed last month to pay more than $1 million for the reconstructed bones, though the sale is contingent on the outcome of litigation. A Manhattan federal judge on Tuesday ordered the transfer of the bones to U.S. custody, saying it appeared likely the government will win in court.

Department of Homeland Security spokesman Luis Martinez said the dinosaur's remains will be taken in boxes to a government warehouse, where they will be protected.

"We do not release the name or address of the storage site because we keep other priceless antiquities at this location," he said.

The government said in a lawsuit filed Monday to recover the dinosaur skeleton that it was being housed at a Cadogan Tate Fine Art property in Queens.

Jonathan Hood, the company's group managing director in London, said Wednesday that Cadogan Tate collected three crates containing the dinosaur skeleton on May 22 and has stored them securely in a climate-controlled vault.

"The crates have been so stored since that time, but we have also provided a secure inspection facility for a review of the contents by several representatives of Heritage, the Mongolian government and the U.S. border control authorities," he said.

The 8-foot-tall, 24-foot-long skeleton was described in The Heritage Auctions May 20 Natural History Auction Catalog as being "a stupendous, museum-quality specimen of one of the most emblematic dinosaurs ever to have stalked this Earth."

The government said in court papers that the Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton was moved in March 2010 from Great Britain to Gainesville, Fla., with erroneous claims that it had originated in Great Britain and was worth only $15,000.

Federal authorities say five experts viewed the remains on June 5, agreeing unanimously that the skeleton was a Tyrannosaurus bataar and almost certainly originated in the Nemegt Basin in Mongolia. It was believed to have been unearthed in the last 17 years.

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