8 Apr 2014

Ministry scours records over taonga seizure

3:02 pm on 8 April 2014

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage is investigating the seizure of Maori artefacts by American authorities.

As Te Manu Korihi reported last week, the FBI confiscated thousands of cultural items and relics from a private collector in rural Indiana.

Donald Miller collected items over eight decades from countries including from New Zealand, Australia, New Guinea, China, and the United States. The FBI is suspicious of the way the 91-year-old acquired the artefacts and wants to repatriate them to their countries of origin.

A review of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage's database and records which go back 1999 showed Donald Miller had not applied for a permit to export taonga Maori, ministry spokesman Ralph Johnson said.

Mr Johnson said the ministry was carrying out further investigations to ascertain whether Mr Miller applied for a permit pior to 1999.

He said the FBI had not so far contacted the ministryand at this stage this it did not know how many and what type of Maori items Mr Miller had in his vast collection.

Mr Miller has not been arrested or charged with any crime at this stage.