WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. government Monday returned some priceless pre-historic fossils to China as a result of two countries' cooperation on fight against transnational crimes.
At a ceremony at the Chinese Embassy, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) returned the fossils seized during routine inspections of goods coming into the country.
Deputy Chief of Mission Xie Feng of the Chinese Embassy expressed the heartfelt gratitude to the U.S. government for its efforts to return the fossils to China.
"In recent years, China and the U.S. have developed close cooperation in law enforcement and made steady progress and prominent achievements, particularly in the fields as counter-terrorism, drug enforcement as well as combating other transnational crimes," said Xie.
"Such law enforcement cooperation will benefit the safety of our countries and the protection of our people's lives and property," he said, adding that the fossils would be well placed and preserved in the Geological Museum of China for scientific research.
The fossils, which included bones of a saber-toothed cat and Psittacosaurus lujiatunesis and eggs of several other dinosaurs, had been shipped, respectively, through Chicago, Illinois, and Norfolk, Va., without proper documentation, according to the CBP.
The fossils confiscated in Chicago were determined by US experts to be animal remains dating back as far as 100 million years, and the 24 fossilized dinosaur eggs were about 60 million years old, it said.
"These pre-historic fossils are an invaluable part of the history of the People's Republic of China and they will undoubtedly contribute to the scientific exploration of that nation's past," said John Morton, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistant Secretary for ICE.
"The attempt to remove them from China ran up against a net work of national and international customs laws that are in place to protect against the theft of cultural property. We are pleased to return them to their rightful owners, the people of China."
According the U.S. authorities, CBP officers discovered the first cache of fossils in three separate parcels at the Chicago O'Hare International Mail Facility in December 2006 and October 2007, whose contents did not match the declared.
After taking over the investigation, ICE contacted the Chinese Consulate in Chicago, which determined that the fossils were cultural relics that should not have been exported from China.
The fossilized dinosaur eggs came in through Dulles Airport in the Washington Metropolitan Area and were shipped from there to Richmond, Va., where they were seized by CBP officers and determined to be protected property.