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Hobby Lobby forced to return thousands of Iraqi artifacts smuggled out as “samples”

"This should be in a Pier One!" (Photo: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

It turns out that Hobby Lobby’s interest in archaic ideas extends past its corporate attitude toward birth control: Today, the U.S. government issued an order forcing the company to return thousands of ancient Iraqi artifacts the company acquired through shady-sounding deals over the years, including a number of cuneiform tablets that the company’s president personally brought into the country labeled as “samples.”

It’s not clear if the Oklahoma-based bric-a-brac provider was looking to branch out into the world of grey-market relic trafficking, or if just loved the down-home, rustic look of ancient tablets and cylinder seals. According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the sales—which were brokered through the United Arab Emirates—were “fraught with red flags” that should have tipped the company off. Countries of origin were changed, money was transferred through back-market methods to random personal accounts, and the company never actually met with its dealers. Hobby Lobby president Steve Green claimed the problems were due to ”inexperience,” which apparently includes “having never seen a single Indiana Jones movie, or any film about smuggling, ever.”


Hobby Lobby will have to pay a $3 million fine for purchasing the artifacts, almost twice what the company originally paid for the smuggled goods.

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