Here is a topic right in Sean's wheel-house.
The US government today returned 80 historical Tsarist and Soviet documents to Russia. The documents were among some 4,000 stolen from Russian national archives during the chaotic years of the early 90s. The documents were apparently found for sale at two US auction houses.
The documents range from a declaration signed by Empress Catherine the Great in 1792 to orders signed by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev; none appears to reveal any secrets but some give a glimpse into the lives and styles of the country's leaders.
James McAndrew, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security agent, said the investigation that led to the papers' recovery began in 2003 when he was contacted by a scholar who had concerns about the provenance of a document being offered for sale.
Eventually, agents found 80 suspicious documents at two companies that deal in antiquities and historical material, he said. He declined to identify the companies, but said they are located in Connecticut and Las Vegas.
After working with Russian archival officials to determine that the documents had been stolen, agents seized the papers, he said.
"The SWAT team didn't get all ramped up, but there was resistance" from the companies' officials, he said.
No arrests in the United States have been made in the case.
It seems to me to be a simple enough thing, to arrest someone who possesses stolen property, so I'm left wondering when charges might be filed for something like this. Then again, the auction houses might be cooperating and leading the police up the food chain, as it were.
Reportedly, of 4,000 items stolen from the Russian national archives, approximately 3,500 have been returned.