Cus­toms op­er­a­tion in Va­len­cia port un­cov­ers plundered Ar­gen­tine fos­sils

Costa Levante News - - FRONT PAGE - By Shel­ley Lid­dell

NA­TIONAL Po­lice of­fi­cers and tax of­fice in­spec­tors in­ter­cepted a con­tainer hold­ing fos­sils in Va­len­cia port that had been il­le­gally ex­ported from Ar­gentina.

Both au­thor­i­ties had been tipped off by the World Cus­toms Or­gan­i­sa­tion af­ter Ar­gen­tine au­thor­i­ties re­quested help to de­tect, de­tain and iden­tify the con­tents of a ship­ping con­tainer, suspected of in­clud­ing fos­sils plundered from the coun­try's Río Ne­gre re­gion, head­ing to Va­len­cia.

Span­ish au­thor­i­ties were able to lo­cate the con­tainer, and carry out a vis­ual in­spec­tion when it was un­loaded from a ship.

A few days later a more thor­ough in­spec­tion by of­fi­cials from Va­len­cia cus­toms au­thor­ity re­vealed the ex­is­tence of re­mains co­in­cid­ing with the de­scrip­tion of the looted fos­sils, as well as mul­ti­ple spec­i­mens of an­i­mals pro­tected by CITES (Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dan­gered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

A third in­spec­tion of the con­tainer was un­der­taken by the di­rec­tor of Va­len­cia’s mu­seum of nat­u­ral sci­ences along with a di­nosaur fos­sil ex­pert.

This in­spec­tion re­vealed high value fos­sils in­clud­ing sev­eral ex­tremely well con­served di­nosaur eggs with a black mar­ket value of more than €150,000.

The re­mains also in­cluded a horse’s tooth, which showed that the species had orig­i­nated in Amer­ica and from there spread to the rest of the world through the Ber­ing Straits, as well as the com­plete skele­ton of a di­nosaur.

The ma­jor­ity of these pieces were hid­den us­ing stones of dif­fer­ent size, shape and colour to evade cus­tom inspection­s, so that all the frag­ments passed as re­mains with­out any pa­le­on­to­log­i­cal value.

At present, all the mer­chan­dise trans­ported in the con­tainer from Ar­gentina (fos­sils, min­er­als and CITES species), re­main in Va­len­cia port at the dis­posal of the Ar­gen­tine au­thor­i­ties.They will be repa­tri­ated af­ter au­tho­ri­sa­tion has been made by the com­pe­tent ju­di­cial au­thor­ity.

Some of the fos­sils which were seized

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