NEW YORK (AP) — Dozens of looted antiques seized from billionaire hedge fund founder Michael Steinhardt after a year-long investigation have been returned to the people of Greece, New York prosecutors said Wednesday.
Artifacts included a sculpture of a young man from around 560 BC. AD, known as kouros, worth $14 million, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said.
The district attorney’s office accused Steinhardt of relying on a “sprawling underworld of antiquities smugglers, crime bosses, money launderers and grave robbers” to build his collection.
The handover of the ancient objects to Greece took place after the district attorney’s office announced an agreement in December, under which Steinhardt was to return $70 million worth of illegally acquired artifacts from Greece and other countries, including Egypt, Israel, Syria and Turkey.
Under the agreement, Steinhardt will not face criminal charges but is subject to an unprecedented lifetime ban on acquiring antiques. Steinhardt is co-founder of Birthright Israel and philanthropist, chairman of the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life.
A total of 55 artifacts with a collective value of $20 million are being repatriated to Greece, prosecutors said, including 47 from Steinhardt’s collection and eight from another ongoing investigation.
“While this collection of exquisite ancient artifacts is valued at $20 million, each piece is an irreplaceable demonstration of Greece’s enduring strength, history and cultural heritage,” Bragg said in a press release. . “I am honored to return these 55 magnificent cultural treasures to the people of Greece – our largest transfer of such antiquities to this nation.”
Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni thanked the prosecutor’s office and added, “The illegal trafficking of our country’s cultural treasures is a serious trauma that hurts all Greeks around the world.”
Prosecutors say Steinhardt purchased the kouros statue from dealer Robert Hecht in November 2000 for $2.3 million. Hecht, who died in Paris in 2012, has long been accused of trafficking in illegally acquired artifacts.
Other items in Steinhardt’s collection included a 600 BC gold brooch worth $1.3 million and a larnax, a small box for human remains, which dates from 1400 to 1200 BC and is valued at $1 million, prosecutors said.
The pieces will all be flown to Greece, where they will be handed over to different regional museums depending on where they were looted, a spokesman for the district attorney said.
Steinhardt, 81, founded hedge fund Steinhardt Partners in 1967 and closed it in 1995. He came out of retirement in 2004 to run Wisdom Tree Investments.
New York University named its Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development after Steinhardt in recognition of two gifts of $10 million.
Manhattan prosecutors began investigating Steinhardt’s collection of ancient artifacts in 2017 and raided his Manhattan office and home in 2018, seizing several works of art that investigators believe had been looted .
A message seeking comment was sent to a Steinhardt representative on Wednesday.
When the agreement between the financier and the prosecution has been announced in decemberSteinhardt attorneys Andrew J. Levander and Theodore V. Wells Jr. said that many of the dealers from whom Steinhardt purchased the items “made specific representations as to the dealers’ rightful title to the items and their alleged provenance.”
The settlement allows Steinhardt to sue the dealers who sold him the items. It is unclear whether he has yet filed a lawsuit.
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