US Dept. of Homeland Security to seize $1m Auctioned Dinosaur
A New York court has issued a warrant forcing an auction house to return the fossil to modern-day Mongolia, where it was discovered about seven years ago.
The dinosaur was sold at auction in New York last month by Heritage Auctions, for more than $1m (£600,000).
But the court says it was illegally imported to the US via the UK in 2010.
The Tyrannosaurus Bataar, an Asian cousin of the better-known Tyrannosaurus Rex, is currently being held by a fine art property company in Queens.
Since 1924, Mongolia has enacted laws protecting fossils. They have been declared the property of the state and their export is banned.
U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel, of the Southern District of New York, signed the warrant after finding there was "probable cause to believe" that the nearly complete Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton is subject to forfeiture under U.S. laws.
The U.S. filed a lawsuit against the skeletal property a day earlier, seeking to seize it for an eventual return to Mongolia.
The Mongolian government objected to the May auction but, despite an injunction, the sale went ahead.
A spokesman for the dealer said that the skeleton had been taken in "good faith" and that it had been sold conditionally, subject to court rulings, and was still in storage.
Co-founder of Heritage Auctions Jeff Halperin said: "We have cooperated in the investigation process for palaeontologists to expeditiously examine the skeleton, and we will continue to cooperate with authorities."
The skeleton initially found its way to Dorset, in southern England, where a collector kept the bones in a warehouse.