Fossils dealer smuggled Tyrannosaurus skeleton worth $1m
Eric Prokopi is accused of acquiring the ancient remains from Mongolia between 2010 and 2012
Nikhil Kumar is The Independent's New York correspondent. He was formerly assistant editor on the foreign desk and has also done a variety of jobs on the city desk, where he wrote about markets, commodities and other business and economics topics.
Saturday 29 December 2012
A self-styled “commercial palaeontologist” faces up to 17 years in jail after he admitted illegally smuggling dinosaur skeletons into the US.
Eric Prokopi – who ran a business called “Everything Earth” trading in dinosaur fossils from his Florida home – is accused of acquiring the remains from Mongolia between 2010 and 2012, and bringing them to America illegally. “He then sold or attempted to sell these fossils to others,” said the US District Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
At the heart of the case is an 8ft (2.4m) tall, 24ft long skeleton of a 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus bataar, which was sold at auction for more than $1m (£619,000) in May.
The bones were looted from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, where local laws prohibit the removal of dinosaur fossils for profit. A battle over the remains led to their seizure and charges against Prokopi, 38, who confessed before a judge on Thursday.
He agreed to surrender the remains and other fossils, including the skeleton of a duck-billed Saurolophus, two oviraptors, and a Tyrannosaurus skeleton believed to be in the UK. A mostly complete Tyrannosaurus skeleton was found at Prokopi’s home, in addition to a collection of other bones, according to the New York Post.
“It is among the largest dinosaur shopping lists you’ll see,” said the Assistant US Attorney, Martin Bell.
Prokopi pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to violate US laws by smuggling dinosaur remains from China, a charge regarding entry of goods by means of false statements and one covering transportation of goods taken by fraud. He faces up to 17 years in prison.
Part of the credit for Prokopi’s undoing goes to a palaeontologist at the American Museum of Natural History, Mark Norell, who saw the auction listing for the Tyrannosaurus and wrote an open letter asserting the bones had “undoubtedly” been looted from Mongolia, according to the New York Times.
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...
£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...
£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...