The 70-million year old fossilized remains of a dinosaur unearthed in Mongolia's Gobi Desert is set to be seized by the US government's Department of Homeland Security.
The priceless fossil of a Tyrannosaurus Bataar, the Asian cousin to the more famous Tyrannosaurus Rex, was sold at auction last month for more than $1 million, despite objections from the Mongolian government, which has banned the export and sale of fossils since 1924.
Now, a New York court has issued a warrant for the fossil forcing the auction house to return the remains to Mongolia, where it was discovered seven years ago and illegally smuggled out of the country, sources say.
In order to circumvent auction house regulations, the person in possession of the fossil at first claimed the remains were discovered in Great Britain. A spokesperson for the Heritage auction house says that the fossil was purchased in good faith, based on the information given by the seller. The New York court has ruled that the remains were exported illegally to the US via Great Britain, and now must be returned to the Mongolian government.
The first Tyrannosaurus Bataars skeletons were discovered in the Gobi desert in 1946 by archeological expeditions which were supported by the former Soviet Union.