OKLAHOMA CITY - Thousands of ancient clay tablets, seals and other Iraqi archaeological objects that were smuggled into the U.S. and shipped to the head of arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby were returned to the Iraqi government on Wednesday.

The Oklahoma City-based private company, whose devout Christian owners won a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling exempting them from providing certain contraceptive coverage for employees, agreed to pay a $3 million fine last year to settle a lawsuit over the company's role in the smuggling of the artifacts, which authorities say were looted from the war-torn country.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Washington handed over the artifacts Wednesday to Iraq's ambassador to the U.S., Fareed Yasseen.

Prosecutors say Hobby Lobby was warned by its own expert that acquiring antiquities from Iraq carried "considerable risk" because so many of the artifacts in circulation are stolen.