US returns Saddam Hussein’s stolen antique chessboard (PHOTOS)
The ancient chess set, stolen during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, was presented to the government of Iraq at the US Embassy in Baghdad on Saturday.
The artifact was recovered by the FBI according to a statement from the US Embassy in Iraq and turned over to Iraq’s deputy minister of culture for antiquities & heritage affairs, Qais Rasheed.
“The US is committed to helping return stolen Iraqi artifacts,” the statement added.
Further details on the theft and how the artifact came into the possession of US authorities were not given.
The former Iraqi leader was a known chess fan. The president of the World Chess Federation, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, previously described Hussein as a “supporter of chess” who understood its value.
Thousands of valuable antiquities were reported stolen from the Iraq museum in the immediate aftermath of the 2003 US invasion.
The International Council of Museums issued an emergency warning on the smuggling of Iraqi artifacts out of the country.
In 2015, hundreds of historical artifacts were returned to Iraq from the US, Italy and Jordan.
The collection included nearly 200 items that went missing from Iraq’s presidential palaces following the overthrow of Hussein.
In July, Oklahoma City-based retail company Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million over its illegal purchase of artifacts believed to have been stolen in 2010 and smuggled from Iraq.
The arts and craft retailer agreed to forfeit the thousands of Middle Eastern artifacts, stating that it had never purchased items from dealers in Iraq.
The trafficking of looted antiquities remains a profitable trade. Last month, the Wall Street Journal estimated that the Islamic State terrorist group (IS) makes as much as $100 million annually from such trafficking, citing a French security official.
Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry said last week it had handed over 44 ancient stolen coins, dating back to the era of kings Faisal I, Faisal II and Ghazi I of Iraq to Iraqi ambassadors in Cairo.