August 8, 2022
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Michael H. Steinhardt, the billionaire hedge fund pioneer and considered one of New York’s most prolific antiquities collectors, has surrendered 180 stolen objects valued at $70 million and been barred for all times from buying every other relics, the Manhattan district lawyer’s workplace mentioned in a press release Monday.

The prosecutor’s workplace struck an settlement with Mr. Steinhardt after a four-year multinational investigation that decided that the seized items had been looted and smuggled from 11 nations, trafficked by 12 illicit networks and appeared on the worldwide artwork market with out lawful paperwork, the workplace mentioned.

“For many years, Michael Steinhardt displayed a rapacious urge for food for plundered artifacts with out concern for the legality of his actions, the legitimacy of the items he purchased and bought, or the grievous cultural harm he wrought throughout the globe,” District Lawyer Cyrus Vance Jr. mentioned, including: “This settlement establishes that Steinhardt might be topic to an unprecedented lifetime ban on buying antiquities.”

Mr. Steinhardt, a Brooklyn native who turns 81 on Tuesday, is a serious contributor to New York College and to quite a few Jewish philanthropies. There’s a Steinhardt conservatory on the Brooklyn Botanic Backyard and a Steinhardt Gallery on the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork.

In a press release on Monday, his lawyer, Andrew J. Levander, mentioned: “Mr. Steinhardt is happy that the District Lawyer’s yearslong investigation has concluded with none costs, and that objects wrongfully taken by others might be returned to their native nations. Most of the sellers from whom Mr. Steinhardt purchased these things made particular representations as to the sellers’ lawful title to the objects, and to their alleged provenance. To the extent these representations had been false, Mr. Steinhardt has reserved his rights to hunt recompense from the sellers concerned.”

Based on prosecutors, 171 of the 180 seized antiquities first surfaced in the possession of accused antiquities traffickers, together with two who’ve been convicted in Italy — Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Becchina. They mentioned the investigation revealed that 101 of the objects, all lined in filth and encrustations, had been seen and identifiable in images discovered in the possession of identified traffickers.

Christos Tsirogiannis, an affiliate professor on the College of Aarhus Institute of Superior Research in Denmark, who specializes in looking photographic archives seized from antiquities sellers, mentioned traffickers use such pictures to promote their looted wares to small teams of rich collectors. Dr. Tsirogiannis is considered one of about 60 researchers, investigators and international regulation enforcement officers credited by the prosecutors’ workplace with helping in the case.

As a part of its inquiry, Mr. Vance’s workplace mentioned, prosecutors executed 17 search warrants and labored with officers in 11 nations — Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, and Turkey.

In explaining the settlement to not prosecute as long as Mr. Steinhardt abides by all its phrases, Mr. Vance mentioned the association would enable for the objects to be “returned expeditiously to their rightful house owners” slightly than being held as proof. It will additionally assist his workplace to “defend the id of the various witnesses right here and overseas whose names could be launched at any trial.”

Nonetheless, the case and different latest seizures display that the workplace’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit is able to attain far again in time to confiscate objects primarily based on a New York state statute that permits prosecutors to return stolen property to its “rightful house owners” no matter when a theft may need occurred.

Mr. Steinhardt’s dealings with prosecutors over suspect antiquities date again to the Nineteen Nineties. In 1997, a federal judge ruled that Mr. Steinhardt had illegally imported a golden bowl, referred to as a phiale, from Italy in 1992. The article, relationship to 450 B.C. and costing $1 million, was seized from Mr. Steinhardt’s residence in 1995. The decide rejected his rivalry on the time that he was an “harmless proprietor” with no data of irregularities.

In 2018, investigators raided his office and Fifth Avenue residence and took away a number of historical works they mentioned had been looted from Greece and Italy. That seizure got here on the heels of a 2017 seizure of a marble statue stolen from a temple in Sidon, Lebanon, which Mr. Steinhardt relinquished and which has been returned.

The 2017 seizure led to the formation of the trafficking unit, which pressed the case that was resolved on Monday. Officers mentioned the unit has recovered greater than 3,000 objects valued at $200 million, and that not less than 1,500 have been returned to their house owners and nations of origin. It mentioned a whole lot are able to be repatriated “as quickly because the related nations are in a position to obtain them amid the pandemic,” and greater than 1,000 objects are being held awaiting the end result of prison proceedings.

(Individually, in March 2019, Mr. Steinhardt was accused of a pattern of sexual harassment by a number of girls who labored for the nonprofits he supported.)

The confiscated objects, which embellished Mr. Steinhardt’s properties and places of work, and which he usually lent to main museums, got here principally from Italy, Greece and Israel, in keeping with an inventory compiled by investigators.

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