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Looted Antiquities from Steinhardt Collection to be Returned to Greece

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An ancient Roman marble head of Zeus that was part of Michael Steinhardt’s collection of antiquities. Credit: Public Domain

A total of 47 looted antiquities retrieved from the collection of billionaire Michael Steinhardt on Monday will be returned to Greece soon, the Greek Ministry of Culture stated on Thursday.

Steinhardt has also accepted a lifetime ban from collecting antiquities as part of the plea agreement.

The antiquities from Steinhardt’s collection that will be returned to Greece are from the Cycladic Islands, Crete, Central Greece, Samos, and Rhodes. They include a number of bronze swords, figurines, a Minoan shrine, a bronze griffin bust, and a kouros statue.

The hedge-fund titan and philanthropist’s collection of nearly 200 priceless antiquities from at least 11 countries, including Greece, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria, is worth an astounding $70 million.

Antiquities from Steinhardt collection to be returned to Greece

Steinhardt seemed to have a particular fondness for objects from Greece, Israel, and Italy, as his 173-item collection included 138 antiquities from these countries alone.

A criminal probe opened into his collection in 2017 by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office revealed that the pieces in Steinhardt’s extensive collection had all been looted and illegally trafficked out of their countries of origin before reaching his hands.

“The seized pieces were looted and illegally smuggled out of 11 countries, trafficked by 12 criminal smuggling networks, and lacked verifiable provenance prior to appearing on the international art market, according to the Statement of Facts summarizing the investigation,” the DA’s office said.

The Greek Culture Ministry’ Directorate for the Documentation and Protection of Cultural Property has been assisting the Manhattan District Attorney’s office throughout the investigation.

Greek Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni expressed her thanks to US authorities for their work on the case on Thursday, stating:

“I thank the American authorities, their staff, and especially the 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.”

Steinhardt blames dealers for wrongdoing

For his part, Steinhardt denies any criminal wrongdoing, and agreed to return the objects as part of a larger deal meant to resolve the criminal probe into his collection. He argues that the dealers from whom he purchased the looted antiquities are at fault.

The hedge fund manager’s attorneys, Andrew Levander and Theodore Wells, said in a joint statement said their client was pleased that the investigation has ended, adding that “items wrongfully taken by others will be returned to their native countries.”

The lawyers also declared that Steinhardt may seek compensation from dealers who allegedly misled him regarding the provenance of the artifacts.

Steinhardt ran the hedge fund Steinhardt Partners, building his net worth to $1.2 billion, according to a report from Forbes.

He regularly loaned items from his collection to institutions, including a 4th century B.C. stag’s head valued at $3.5 million that he lent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Steinhardt’s records said that the object had been “Found in Western Turkey.

At this point, it is not known exactly where in western Turkey the stag’s head originated from.

The statement of facts indicated that “Information from a seller identifying the find spot of an un-provenanced antiquity is often an indication that it has been looted.”

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