Yet, St. Hilaire is wrong to assume that any artifact seized by Customs "must be looted." Instead, as I noted in a comment to his blog that he has so far refused to publish:
You might also note that much, if not most, of the material seized and returned is abandoned by the importer. You assume it is because it is looted; in actuality it may very well be because the litigation costs of fighting CBP greatly exceed the value of the artifact. As for the lack of prosecutions, that likely has to do with the fact that the Government cannot show criminal intent. Thankfully, that is still required despite efforts of archaeological fanatics to diminish this bedrock protection of American law.
And if anything, three knowledgeable practitioners confirmed at a DC Bar program I just attended, entitled "What Every Lawyer Needs to Know About Customs and Customs Law 2012," that CBP's modus operandi is all too often to seize all sorts of things for the slimmest of reasons (mostly for supposed "trade mark" or drug importation violations), confident in the knowledge that it is often not worth the trouble to fight to get them back.
This is a national disgrace that has much to do with CBP's change in focus from a "revenue collecting agency" under Treasury to a "national security agency" under Homeland Security. As such, statistics on repatriations are nothing CBP should be bragging about, let alone being used to support a claim that more criminal prosecutions are warranted.
Addendum (3-9-12): Apparently Mr. St. Hilaire is so threatened by alternate views that he has now disabled comments to his blog. He has also deleted an automatic link to this blog, but has retained a link that of fellow archaeo-blogger Paul Barford's work. Talk about half-truths! This is a major problem with the approach of the archaeological community and their supporters to this discussion. All too often they consider their own "archaeology over all" world view as the only legitimate one and seek to suppress the views of others, particularly those representing so-called "commercial interests." But isn't this just archaeological snobbery?