A US federal judge in a court in the state of Texas issued an arrest warrant, on Tuesday, to seize a dinosaur skeleton presently held by Cadogan Tate Fine Art property, an art storage company. The warrant was issued to help settle a row surrounding its ownership.
The skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Bataar, described as one of the great dinosaurs of the Cretaceous period, was sold for $1,052,500 in an auction in New York on 20 May. However, events that transpired after the sale mean confirmation of the auction result is dependent on the resolution of the lawsuit, according to The Heritage Auctions, the world's third largest auction house. The agency said the skeleton was estimated to fetch between $950,000 and $1,500,000.
According to the lawsuit filed in a US district court, the skeleton of the Tyrannosaurus Bataar, which existed about 70 million years ago, primarily in Mongolia in Central Asia, was brought to the United States from the UK illegally. The suit also includes a claim by the Mongolian government, claiming the skeleton belongs to the Asian country.
"Heritage Auctions sold this dinosaur on May 20 as part of the company's Natural History auction. The sale was not without controversy, as the Mongolian government released a statement 48 hours before the auction suggesting the fossil belonged to the country," the Dallas-based auction house said in a statement.
The auction house's authority said they obtained the skeleton from trusted consignors and by legal procedures.
"We respect the various opinions on the subject and wish to protect the legal rights of all parties involved. We have legal assurances from our reputable consignors that the specimen was obtained legally," Greg Rohan, President of Heritage Auctions, said.
"As far as we know, the Mongolian government has not produced any evidence that the piece originated in its territory, but the final determination will be up to the American legal system," he added.
The auction house described the skeleton specimen, which is eight feet tall and 24 feet long, as "an incredible, complete skeleton, painstakingly excavated and prepared, and mounted in a dramatic, forward-leaning running pose".
"This is a once in a generation dinosaur and collectors definitely responded to both its rarity and its fierce beauty. A dino like this is rare to come across in any condition, let alone one as pristine as this," David Herskowitz, Director of Natural History at Heritage Auctions, said.
The skeleton of the Tyrannosaurus Bataar dinosaur is pictured below: