Smuggled Brazilian fossils destined for museum after being recovered in Scarborough

A close up of one of the fossilsA close up of one of the fossils
A close up of one of the fossils
Precious fossils smuggled out of South America will go on display at a Brazilian museum after they were retrieved by North Yorkshire Police.

The 33 insect fossils worth thousands of pounds were recovered from a trader in the Scarborough area as part of an international investigation.

The Embassy of Brazil thanked the force and said their return marked “a significant milestone in the protection of our natural and cultural heritage”.

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The investigation into the artefacts, which originated from Brazil’s Araripe Basin, began last year when they were identified by the Cultural and Heritage Department of Brazil as being illegally exported.

The exchange: PC Bradley Hay (second from left) in London with the Head of the Cultural and Heritage Department of Brazil and the Head of Brazilian Police.The exchange: PC Bradley Hay (second from left) in London with the Head of the Cultural and Heritage Department of Brazil and the Head of Brazilian Police.
The exchange: PC Bradley Hay (second from left) in London with the Head of the Cultural and Heritage Department of Brazil and the Head of Brazilian Police.

The Araripe Basin is the largest fossil site in the country and is regarded as one of the most valuable in the world, making it a target for the international fossil black market.

So Brazilian authorities asked North Yorkshire Police, via Interpol, to investigate the items on sale in the force’s area.

The case was taken on by North Yorkshire Police’s Force Intelligence Bureau.

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The team includes International Liaison Officers, who more commonly work with overseas authorities to track down and extradite fugitives.

The fossils will be displayed in a Brazilian museumThe fossils will be displayed in a Brazilian museum
The fossils will be displayed in a Brazilian museum

International Liaison Officer PC Bradley Hay led the investigation, which resulted in the fossils being handed over.

The North Yorkshire dealer who owned them believed they were legitimate and had not committed any offences.

They were then repatriated to Brazil with the help of the nation’s embassy when PC Hay delivered them to Brazilian authorities in London.

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PC Hay said: “The Brazilian authorities were absolutely delighted with the result of the investigation and are flying the fossils home to be shown in a museum.

“This was clearly a departure from tracking down North Yorkshire’s fugitives who try to flee overseas. But it’s been rewarding to use our international law enforcement network to repatriate these unique and irreplaceable artefacts that are part of Brazil’s natural heritage.”

The fossils were authenticated by experts at a Brazilian paleontological museum.

The successful operation was made possible through the collaboration of Brazil's Ministry of Justice and Public Security, the Office of the Prosecutor General, and the Foreign Ministry alongside the UK Home Office and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.