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'This is historic': France gives back Moroccan art seized from traffickers

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France on Thursday officially handed over to the Moroccan authorities nearly 25,000 archaeological objects, which had been seized in France during three customs controls and which illustrate the "scourge" of looting of cultural property, according to officials.

The handover took place in Marseille at the Museum of Mediterranean Cultures. The objects, which weigh a total of nearly 3 tons, will only leave for Morocco at the end of the month.

The controls go back to 2005 and 2006 in Marseille and Perpignan. The drivers, all of Moroccan nationality, were driving luxury cars. 

"Good people in all respects", because the objects were "treated, washed," said Guy Jean-Baptiste, the regional director of customs in Marseille.

It took 15 years to return them to Morocco. Traffickers have also been fined a total of 120,000 euros.

The objects seized were remarkable not only for their volume, but also for their typology, some of which were geological and others of which bore witness to "the history of men who preceded writing," said Xavier Delestre, Regional Curator of Archaeology at the Drac Paca.

Among them, a crocodile skull, fossils, fish or reptile teeth or engraved plates, some of which date from the Neolithic period.

"This is a historic moment because we can repatriate this heritage to find his native land," said Youssef Khiara, national director of Moroccan heritage.

"The event of 2005 set in motion a process in Morocco," he added. Since then, the Moroccan authorities have trained customs, magistrates in order to have "qualified human resources to deal with the theft and trafficking of art.