Consul General of Greece in Chicago Emmanuel Koubarakis, second from left, with Homeland Security Investigations personnel during the ceremony for the return to Greece of 21 ancient coins. (Photo: Courtesy of the Consulate General of Greece in Chicago)
CHICAGO – Twenty-one priceless ancient coins are being returned to Greece after they were found during an inspection by the authorities at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced.
The coins were stolen from Greece several years ago and were brought to the U.S. in order to be put up for illegal auction through black market circles. Nevertheless, the authorities prevented their transfer from Chicago’s main airport and on December 21, a ceremony took place in the presence of Consul General of Greece Emmanuel Koubarakis at the HSI offices in the Chicago suburb of Lombard.
HSI Director Sean Fitzgerald told Chicago’s Fox32: “This is a very big deal. This is the largest repatriation of Greek coins in recent history for Homeland Security Investigations… I can’t put a price on them because if they got on a black market auction we’d be talking tens and tens of thousands of dollars… This is really a theft and a pillaging of cultural heritage. These countries, they want our help, and they need our help to bring back their history for them.”
Consul General of Greece in Chicago Emmanuel Koubarakis expressed the country’s gratitude to the American authorities for their cooperation, but also for the fact that the objects of significant historical value will return to Greece, noting that “these items are very important to the cultural heritage of my country.”
“I would like to thank you for organizing this ceremony. On behalf of the Hellenic Republic, I would like to express my appreciation and commend the very capable American authorities for their diligence and dedication in tracking the illegal trafficking of antiquities. I would like to thank the U.S. for its cooperation and the repatriation of the 21 coins to their country of origin, Greece. These objects are very important to our cultural heritage. We also thank the Homeland Security Investigations Department for their excellent cooperation,” said Koubarakis.
HSI agent Paige Williamson noted that the coins were found at O’Hare airport in a shipment that came from Europe, in order to continue their illegal journey.
“These coins were found in a DHL facility at the airport. They were coming from Austria and were going to end up in private hands here in the U.S.,” she said.
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