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Stolen Christopher Columbus Letter Returned to Spain by US

Stolen Christopher Columbus Letter Returned to Spain by US

A letter by Christopher Columbus describing his discoveries in the Americas, which was stolen from the National Library of Catalonia in Barcelona, is shown in this photo provided June 6. (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

By    |   Thursday, 07 June 2018 05:39 PM

A stolen Christopher Columbus letter that dates to 1493 with his description of the "New World" to his Spanish backers, was returned to Spain by the United States, EuroNews.com reported.

One of 16 copies of the letter had disappeared from the National Library of Catalonia along with ancient books and other letter copies from the museums in Florence and Rome, EuroNews.com said.

It was returned to Spain by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during a ceremony Wednesday, CNN reported.

"The story behind this ceremony began back in 2011 when the United States Homeland Security Investigation's Wilmington Office launched the investigation into the theft of the copies of the letter written in 1493 by Christopher Columbus, revealing that a number of them had been stolen from libraries in Europe and replaced by forgeries," Spain's ambassador to the United States Pedro Morenes said, according to EuroNews.com.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement Wednesday that returning the letter was part of a seven-year investigation by Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Delaware.

Agents received a tip that several 15th century original manually printed copies of the Columbus letter were stolen from European libraries and replaced with forgeries without the knowledge of library officials or local law enforcement, the statement said.

Investigators learned that the stolen Columbus letter from Spain was sold in November of 2005 for 600,000 Euros, or $709,471, by two Italian book dealers, the Customs statement continued.

After confirming the forgery in 2012, agents discovered the person who purchased the letter in 2011, the Customs statement said. The owner volunteered to transfer custody of the letter to federal agents in 2014 after "extensive negotiations," with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Delaware, the statement continued. The letter received further examination before it was cleared to be turned over.

"The recovery of this Plannck II Columbus Letter on behalf of the Spanish government exemplifies not only the significance of federal agency partnerships in these complicated investigations, but the close coordination that exists between American and foreign law enforcement agencies," said U.S. Attorney David C. Weiss.

"We are truly honored to return this historically important document back to Spain – its rightful owner. I commend the dogged efforts of HSI special agents and Department of Justice attorneys who are dedicated to the recovery of stolen cultural artifacts from around the world," Weiss continued.

ICE has returned more than 11,000 artifacts to more than 30 countries since 2007, including paintings from France, Germany, Poland and Austria, 15th-18th century manuscripts from Italy and Peru, cultural artifacts from China, Cambodia, and two Baatar dinosaur fossils to Mongolia, according to the statement.

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A stolen letter written by Christopher Columbus in 1493 describing the "New World" to his Spanish backers was returned to Spain during a ceremony Wednesday.
stolen, christopher columbus, letter, spain
Thursday, 07 June 2018 05:39 PM
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