The years-long saga of Bahia emerald, the world’s largest, took another dramatic turn Thursday when a federal judge in Washington, D.C., approved a request from the Department of Justice preventing anyone from removing the gem from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, where it has been housed in an undisclosed location since 2008.

The ruling followed a declaration earlier this week by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson judge naming Idaho businessmen Kit Morrison and Todd Armstrong and Jerry Ferrera of Florida the rightful owners of the gem.

“The Bahia emerald was illegally mined and unlawfully exported from Brazil,” said John Nadolenco, partner at Mayer Brown who’s representing the South American nation. “We are grateful that the Department of Justice and federal courts have acted to protect it. This is an important step toward returning the emerald to its rightful home.”

The three Americans must now wait until a criminal court case pending in Brazil wraps up before they can make their next move. The case in Brazil is set to determine whether the emerald was, in fact, mined illegally.

Andrew Spielberger, a lawyer for the three businessmen, did not immediately return a request for comment from the Business Journal Thursday afternoon.

For more on the saga of the Bahia Emerald, check out previous Business Journal coverage.

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