Switzerland returns pre-Columbian treasures to Peru

The pre-Columbian treasures consisted of 24 ceramic objects and 24 wooden figurines, which had been discovered by the Federal Customs Administration at a client’s premises at the Geneva free port during an inspection in 2016. Keystone / Martial Trezzini

Switzerland has returned 48 pre-Columbian artefacts of ‘inestimable’ value to Peru that had been discovered at the Geneva free port facility.

This content was published on December 20, 2019 - 12:03
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The pre-Columbian treasures consisted of 24 ceramic objects and 24 wooden figurines, which had been discovered by the Federal Customs Administration at a client’s premises at the Geneva free port during an inspection in 2016.

The objects had been described in the owner’s inventory as personal wooden objects.

Tests confirmed that they were pre-Columbian objects from the Chancay civilization from the coastal region of Peru, dating between 1200-1470AD.

Such objects feature on the red list of endangered Peruvian antiques established by the International Council of Museums (ICOM). They are protected by national legislation and international agreements and are vulnerable to illicit trafficking.

Alerted by the Federal Customs Administration, the Geneva Office of the Attorney General had opened an investigation and ordered the seizure of the items. A court decision for their return has now come into force.

Switzerland and Peru are parties to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. In 2016, Bern and Lima concluded a separate agreement for the return of cultural property. 

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