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Tyrannosaurus fossil embroiled in custody case will be returned to Mongolia

Homecoming awaits for a 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus fossil, caught in a long-running custody battle between a US paleontologist and Mongolian officials.

Dinosaur asteroid 7 12 2011Enlarge
A visitor looks at a the skull of a Tyrannosaurus rex at the all-new 14,000 square foot Dinosaur Hall permanent exhibition at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles July 7, 2011. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

A Mongolian Tyrannosaurus fossil will return home, after a US federal judge ruled the 70-million-year-old dinosaur would be forfeited to the US government from paleontologist from Erik Prokopi — accused of smuggling the remains out of the Gobi desert.

The nearly-complete T-Rex fossil first hit the news over the summer, when Prokopi sold the skeleton at a New York auction for over $1 million, wrote the BBC.

Read more from GlobalPost: US government sues to force the return of T-Rex to Mongolia

A New York court ruled that the fossils were illegally imported into the US in 2010 and seized them, sparking off a custody battle, with Prokopi on one side, and the US government and Mongolian officials on the other.

Prokopi was accused of lying on US customs forms about the value of the fossils, initially listing them as worth a mere $19,000, wrote Reuters.

American and Mongolian fossil experts concluded in June 2012 that the fossil was indeed of Mongolian extraction, causing the Mongolian government to jump into the fray.

Prokopi pled guilty in December to charges of conspiring to violate federal law, wrote the New York Times, and could face years in prison under the charges. Other valuable dinosaur fossils were seized from his Florida home as well.

Another Mongolian fossil, a rare Tarbosaurus Bataar possibly imported by Prokopi, is thought to be missing in the United Kingdom. Scotland Yard has taken on the case, writes the International Business Times.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/130214/tyrannosaurus-fossil-embroiled-custody-case-will-be-returned-mongolia