The owners of Hobby Lobby aren’t just known for their fervent religious belief that they should be the deciders of whether or not the employees of their retail stores nationwide are allowed to have insurance that covers birth control, or that their own religious beliefs clearly trump those of every last American they have ever hired. They’re also now known for a move every bit as rooted in the supposition that rich people can do whatever the hell they want: helping to spirit possibly stolen, possibly looted Middle Eastern artifacts into their own private collection.
After months of back and forth, Mr. Green’s family business paid $1.6 million for the lot. Mr. Green thought he was getting a bargain.
Instead, the deal cost Hobby Lobby another $3 million in July to settle a government lawsuit alleging the goods were smuggled into the U.S. Most of the relics were seized by federal authorities, and Iraq has since petitioned the Justice Department to return items that Iraqi officials believe were stolen from their country.
The story of Hobby Lobby’s acquisitions has been churning for months, fueled by anger from the nations that claim ownership of the artifacts and the clearly suspicious manner in which the objects were shipped into the country. (The objects were falsely identified in import documents, were falsely identified as being from “Turkey,” and were paid for in a series of dubious transactions.) Given the Iraqi provenance of many of the items, there is a distinct possibility that they were looted from sites under the control of, for example, ISIS, as the group has been known to finance its military campaign by seizing and smuggling valuable artifacts.
Now we’re getting a better picture of the aftermath as experts attempt to sift through the collection, attempting to identify the origin of each individual piece. And it’s a mess.