Forty-seven illegally trafficked Greek artifacts among the dozens surrendered by American hedge fund billionaire Michael Steinhardt under a deal with US authorities will be returned to Greece in the coming days, the Culture Ministry announced Thursday.
The Greek items are among scores found in the possession of Steinhardt, who, according to American investigators, was supplied antiquities by 12 criminal networks from 11 different countries.
The 172-page investigation of the Manhattan District Attorney presents the actions of international antiquities smuggling networks, their dealings with tomb raiders, appraisers and art conservators, as well as their clandestine fragmentation and looting practices in remarkable detail. Some of those implicated have a criminal record or have been implicated in such cases in Greece in the past.
The ancient items that will be returned originally came from Central Greece, Crete, the Cyclades islands of Paros and Naxos, as well as Samos and Rhodes.
Items that stand out include a Minoan larnax dated to to 1400-1200 BC and valued at US$1million, a $14 million torso of a Kouros statue dated to 560 BC, as well as a bronze griffin protome, Cycladic vessels, figurines and bronze swords.
“I thank the American authorities, their staff, and especially Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos, as well as the staff of the Ministry of Culture and Sports, who assisted in the work of documenting and recovering the antiquities illegally exported from Greece which were included in the Steinhardt collection,” Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said in a statement.
Prosecutors raided Steinhard’s apartments and Manhattan office in early 2018, and one of their warrants allowed them to photograph every item in his collection. He was found to have owned more than 1,000 antiquities valued at more than $200 million, which he had acquired at least since 1987. Investigators concluded from the evidence they collected that 180 of them, including the 47 Greek ones, had been illegally smuggled.
The total value of the confiscated items to be returned to 11 countries is currently estimated at $70 million.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has teamed up with 60 experts around the world to document the cases.
Earlier versions of the text had misidentified the office that investigated Steinhardt. It was the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in New York and not the state’s Attorney General.