|Peru Lifts Some Machu Picchu Claims Against Yale University|
Tourists visit the Machu Picchu ruins in the Peruvian Andes. Peru has voluntarily agreed to withdraw fraud and conspiracy allegations it made against Yale University in a lawsuit seeking the return of Inca artifacts removed from Machu Picchu nearly a century ago, The Associated Press reports Tuesday, March 9, 2010. AP Photo/Ricardo Choy Kifox.
By: John Christoffersen, Associated Press Writer
NEW HAVEN, CT.- Peru has voluntarily agreed to withdraw fraud and conspiracy allegations it made against Yale University in a lawsuit seeking the return of Inca artifacts removed from Machu Picchu nearly a century ago.
The South American nation recently filed papers in federal court dismissing six of 17 counts from its lawsuit. Peru sued in 2008, demanding Yale return artifacts taken by scholar Hiram Bingham III between 1911 and 1915.
The Machu Picchu ruins, perched in the clouds at 8,000 feet above sea level on an Andean mountaintop, are Peru's main tourist attraction. The complex of stone buildings was built in the 1400s by the Inca empire that ruled Peru before the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th century.
The withdrawal of some claims comes after Peru hired new lawyers who said the move would simplify the case and "facilitate resolution" of the dispute. Yale's lawyers had warned that the claims violated civil procedures prohibiting frivolous arguments.
The fraud allegations that were withdrawn accused Yale of intending to deceive Peru by promising to return the artifacts and conspiring with Bingham to retain the artifacts unlawfully by fraudulently assuring that Yale would return the artifacts when Peru demanded.
"Peru has dropped all claims of Yale having intentionally done anything wrong," said Jonathan Freiman, Yale's attorney. "We're glad that they have done so, but we think the rest of the case is equally misguided and should be withdrawn, as well."
A telephone message was left Tuesday for Peru's attorney Owen Pell.
The counts that remain allege Yale violated Peruvian law by exporting the artifacts without the special permission of the Peruvian government and by refusing to return them. The lawsuit still accuses Yale of refusing to account for which artifacts it holds and which were returned.
"Yale has wholly betrayed Peru's trust and confidence," the lawsuit states. "Yale has exploited its holding of the Machu Picchu collection for commercial and financial gain at the expense of the interests of the Peruvian people and in violation of the fiduciary obligations that Yale owes Peru."
Yale says that it returned dozens of boxes of artifacts in 1921 and that Peru knew it would retain some. Yale describes the artifacts as "primarily fragments of ceramic, metal and bone" and says it re-created some objects from fragments.
Peru says the artifacts are composed of centuries-old Incan materials, including bronze, gold and other metal objects, mummies, skulls, bones and other human remains, pottery, utensils, ceramics and objects of art. Peru says the most important artifacts were never returned.
In 2007, the two sides agreed to give Peru legal title to the pieces, which were to travel in a joint exhibit and then return to a museum and research center in the ancient Incan capital of Cuzco. Yale would have funded the traveling exhibit and partially funded the museum.
But Peru backed out of the deal because of a dispute over how many artifacts were to be returned.
Yale has said it was disappointed that Peru decided not to honor the 2007 agreement, which it said would return all "museum quality objects" along with a "significant portion of the research materials."
The lawsuit seeks damages on each count that that it says far exceed $75,000.
Bingham is commonly credited with rediscovering Machu Picchu centuries after the Incas abandoned the site during the Spanish conquest. But in recent years, versions suggesting that other foreign and local explorers beat him to the site have gained currency among Peruvian historians.
Yale has argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because a three-year statue of limitations expired.
Peru rejects the argument, saying that Yale never owned the artifacts and that its claim is not subject to a statute of limitations under Peruvian law.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.
March 10, 2010
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