Washington, Apr 17 (EFE).- U.S. authorities on Wednesday returned to Spain a 16th-century tapestry that was stolen in 1979 from the San Vicente Martir Cathedral in the northeastern village of Roda de Isabena.
"This is a happy ending after 34 years," said the general director of cultural assets at the Education, Culture and Sports Ministry, Jesus Prieto de Pedro, at a ceremony held at the residence of Spain's ambassador to Washington, Ramon Gil-Casares.
The "De la Virgen y San Vicente" tapestry will be transported to Spain on a commercial flight in a security container guarded by the Civil Guard.
The personal delivery of the tapestry by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement director John Morton marks the conclusion of a journey that began one night in 1979 when an art thief stole several valuable works of art from the cathedral.
The tapestry was shipped illegally to Belgium and later auctioned in Munich, where it was acquired by an Italian citizen who took it to Italy and kept it off the market for a time so as to be able to sell it later at a higher price.
Later, the tapestry went to Paris, where it was restored before being sold in 2010 at an art fair in Belgium to a Texas-based business for $369,000.
In 2010, the Civil Guard launched an operation to recover the tapestry after a Spanish investigator spotted the piece in an auction catalog.
Spanish judicial authorities got in contact with their U.S. counterparts once the piece was identified and located, and in November 2012 Civil Guard agents traveled to the United States with a team of experts to verify its authenticity.