U.S. returns tyrannosaurus skeleton to Mongolia

New York, May 6 (EFE).- U.S. authorities returned an almost complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus bataar to the Mongolian government after it was illegally imported into the United States three years ago, the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced Monday.

The almost 70-million-year-old skeleton was brought into the United States in 2010 and put up for auction, a move that the Mongolian government unsuccessfully tried to halt, and it was ultimately sold for more than $1 million while judicial proceedings were being awaited.

Mongolia's president, Tsakhia Elbegdorj, last year sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney's office formally asking for assistance in recovering the skeleton.

The Tyrannosaurus bataar was a dinosaur that lived at the end of the Cretaceous Period approximately 70 million years ago and it was discovered for the first time in 1946 during a joint Mongolian-Soviet expedition in the Gobi Desert.

Last October, the importer of the skeleton and other dinosaur fossils, Eric Prokopi, was arrested on a conspiracy charge for smuggling illegal merchandise.

Prokopi pled guilty to acquiring the fossilized remains of numerous dinosaurs that had been illegally removed from their countries of origin and smuggling them into the United States, and he agreed to hand over this skeleton to U.S. authorities along with another almost complete set of fossilized T.bataar bones, along with a Saurolophus and an Oviraptor skeleton.

The Mongolian president thanked U.S. authorities for their help.

"Our two countries are separated by many miles, but share a passion for justice and a commitment to putting an end to illegal smuggling," Elbegdorj said in a statement.