Successful Customs Intelligence and Targeting Lead to the Recovery of the 16th Century Book by the Kingdom of Spain

29 May 2024

In a remarkable display of international cooperation, a rare and historically significant book, Sumario breve de la practica de la arithmetica (A Brief Summary of the Arithmetic Practice) by Juan Andrés, published in Valencia in 1515, has been repatriated to Spain. The repatriation ceremony was presided over by HSI Executive Associate Director Katrina W. Berger and Spanish Ambassador to the United States, Angeles Moreno Bau on 22 May 2024, at the Spanish Embassy to the United States in Washington, DC.

The case began in November 2021, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detained a suspicious shipment at a U.S. airport. Originating from a European country, the shipment was flagged for inspection by CBP, based on intelligence shared by the South American Customs administration through the World Customs Organization’s (WCO) ARCHEO platform.

During a physical examination, several books and manuscripts were discovered. Some of them were accompanied by an export license from a European country. To verify the provenience of the books and the legitimacy of the export licence, CBP sent a request for the assistance of the WCO Cultural Heritage Programme. The WCO engaged with the Spanish National Police, who, after consulting national authorities, confirmed that one of the books required an export license as it was part of Spain's Bibliographic Heritage.

In the meantime, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) launched a full-scale investigation. By May 2022, CBP seized the book, which was subsequently abandoned by its consignor in July 2022.

This book's identification and recovery were the result of a concerted effort by multiple actors, including the WCO, CBP, HSI New York, HSI Madrid, and the Spanish National Police. Their collaboration aimed at a broader effort to recover documentary heritage belonging to other countries or private individuals that were being illegally shipped to the United States.

The repatriation ceremony serves as a testament to the power of multijurisdictional and multiagency cooperation. The WCO stands ready to continue providing investigative support to Customs and partner law enforcement agencies in their efforts to safeguard the cultural heritage for the benefit of the humankind.

Photos

  • Copyright : Embassy of Spain to the United States.

    Copyright : Embassy of Spain to the United States.

    Download full size image
  • Katrina W.Berger, Executive Associate Director of HSI (left) and Ambassador Moreno (right) presided over the restitution ceremony at the Embassy of Spain to the United States in Washington, DC. Copyright : Embassy of Spain to the United States.

    Katrina W.Berger, Executive Associate Director of HSI (left) and Ambassador Moreno (right) presided over the restitution ceremony at the Embassy of Spain to the United States in Washington, DC. Copyright : Embassy of Spain to the United States.

    Download full size image