Stolen: Nicolas Cage to return $276k dino skull to Mongolia
The skull has been in the actor’s possession for nearly 10 years: Cage bought it in March 2007 from the I.M. Chait Gallery in Beverly Hills. Cage’s publicist Alex Schack told Reuters the Tyrannosaurus bataar skull had come with a certificate of authenticity.
US authorities first contacted the Hollywood star in July 2014 , informing him that the 67-million-year-old skull may have been stolen.
Just last week the office of Preet Bharara, the US attorney in Manhattan, filed a civil complaint to take possession of the skull.
Although the actor is not accused of any wrongdoing, after the decision by investigators that the skull had indeed been illegally taken out of Mongolia, Cage agreed to hand it over so that it can be returned to the country.
It had earlier been reported that during the 2007 auction, Cage outbid his colleague, Leonardo DiCaprio, splashing out $276,000 on the T-rex relative’s skull.
In 2013 the Telegraph reported that the skull in question was purchased by the I.M. Chait Gallery from Eric Prokopi, who was jailed in 2014 for illegally exporting dinosaur remains to the US.
The gallery, just as the actor himself, are not being accused of complicity in any kind of con, but Assistant US Attorney Martyn Bell, who prosecuted Prokopi, was also the lead government lawyer in the Cage case.
Since 2012 Bharara’s office has recovered more than a dozen precious Mongolian fossils, including three full Tyrannosaurus bataar skeletons - a big deal for a country that criminalized the removal of fossils in 1924.