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Dinosaur Arrest Warrant Signed by NY Judge: US Can Seize Skeleton

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By Andrew Lu on June 22, 2012 6:55 AM

A dinosaur arrest warrant issued and a dinosaur seized in this case of International intrigue, smugglers, and legal warfare between Mongolia, United States, and possible victims of fraud.

The dispute centers around the ownership rights over a 70-million-year-old dinosaur skeleton valued in the millions.

Mongolia says it's theirs. Private buyers have their claim after spending more than a million at auction. And the U.S. is caught in the middle.

Almost a hundred years ago, Mongolia declared it illegal for dinosaur fossils to be exported from the country, reports Reuters. A few years later, the Tyrannosaurus bataar (a cousin of the North American Tyrannosaurus rex) was discovered there.

Fast forward to present day where a Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton was imported into the United States from Great Britain. The dinosaur was claimed to have originated in Britain and was said to have a value of only $15,000. Both allegedly incorrect. After arriving in the U.S., the skeleton was sold through Dallas-based Heritage Auctions to an unidentified buyer for more than a million dollars, reports Reuters.

But as the dinosaur is generally agreed to have originated from Mongolia, there's now serious doubts whether anyone but the Mongolian government had the right to auction it off.

Recognizing the rights of Mongolia, the U.S. decided to seize the dinosaur through an arrest warrant. An object that is the subject of a seizure is oftentimes named in an arrest warrant. It's just unusual for that object to be a dinosaur. As a result of the seizure, the skeleton cannot be moved pending clearing up of the ownership issues.

Given Mongolia's claim, the buyers at auction may have a hard time convincing the U.S. government that the dinosaur belongs to them. The buyers may be out costs, though they may be able to pursue claims against the Dallas auction house.

A dinosaur arrest warrant issued. A dinosaur seized. But it's still not clear who owns the dinosaur.

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