FBI snaps up Napoleon III’s gun from online sales site

The FBI doesn’t usually find itself in the business of retrieving guns but last week it made an exception: a rare Gastinne Renette carbine taken from a Paris military museum during World War II while the Germans occupied Paris that once belonged to Napoleon III. French authorities have searched for the 37-inch gun ever since and when it popped up on the Web site gunsamerica.com, French officials contacted Interpol, which in then enlisted help from the FBI.The description of the gun, which was listed for sale on the site for $12,000 noted, “This carbine was taken from the French National museum (Hotel des Invalides -- Napoleon’s Tomb) during WWII. It was most likely made especially for Empereur Napoleon III (1851-1870). It is 37 inches long with a 21 inch, .50 cal. barrel fitted with bayonet lug and double-folding rear sight. The barrel is marked, “Gastinne Renette arqr de S.M. Empereur a Paris.” It is one of the earliest breech-loading cartridge arms produced being patented by Louis Julien Gastinne in Paris on 5 March 1853.” According to the FBI, a gun collector from the San Antonio area acquired the weapon in the mid-1980’s, unaware that it was stolen, during the purchase of a larger gun collection. However, shortly after the buy, the collector learned the weapon was a stolen cultural treasure from France but made no effort to return it to French authorities. An undercover operation was initiated by local FBI agents, and agents from the FBI’s Art Crime Team, which resulted in the safe recovery of the weapon last week. The Art Crime Team is the FBI’s 12-member rapid-deployment unit responsible for investigating cases involving cultural property and artwork. To date, the Team is responsible for recovering more than 850 items worth more than $65million. The FBI declined to release the gun collector’s name because he was not arrested, and federal prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek charges against him, the FBI said.The gun find is just one of the cool things the FBI has recovered this year. For example, in April, the agency recovered astronaut James Lovell's - Commander of the ill-fated Apollo XIII space mission - Presidential Medal of Freedom that had been missing since April, 1970. According to the FBI, the medal in question was originally produced for presentation to Lovell that month in 1970 but a defect was detected in the medal prior to the presentation ceremony and a replacement was manufactured. The defective medal was to be destroyed, however, it apparently never was. The FBI said it "found it's way out of the White House and eventually into the hands of a private collector in Pennsylvania." Long story short, Lovell learned that the defective medal was being offered for sale on eBay, earlier this year. A woman in Pennsylvania who told authorities it once belonged to her father, posted it on eBay in January and it was selling then for $5,000.  

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