Spain will return 74 colonial and 49 pre-Columbian works of art to Ecuador on Wednesday, 22 years after the former were handed to a museum for restoration and 12 years after Madrid police found the latter during a raid undertaken as part of a money laundering and drug trafficking case.
The Museo de America took custody of the artworks from a former Ecuadorian ambassador and Interpol, respectively. Almost a decade after the police seized hundreds of archaeological pieces, Spain notified its embassy in Colombia that they originated in several northern South American countries.
After technical consultation, Colombia claimed 691 of the works and in 2014 determined that another 151 belong to Ecuador. About a third of those pieces were determined to belong to the country's cultural heritage.
The 74 pieces, acquired legally at the time by the former Spanish ambassador to Ecuador, were given to the Museo de América for restoration on the condition that they be returned when asked. In June, the central court of Madrid ruled in favor of the repatriation of both the colonial and pre-Columbian works.
[Image Caption:Colombian ambassador recuperates 691 pieces of stolen pre-Columbian artwork in Madrid last year. | Photo: EFE/Hugo Ortuño]