Antiquities Valued at More Than $20 Million Returned to Greece
The gold brooch from ancient Greece was valued at $1.3 million. A 3,500-year-old coffin the size of a trunk, known as a larnax and decorated with undulating patterns, was valued at $1 million. But the most distinctive of the 55 antiquities returned to Greece by the Manhattan district attorney’s office this week was a 2,500-year-old sculpture of an athletic youth, known as a kouros, valued at $14 million.
It was purchased, court documents say, from Robert E. Hecht, a Paris-based antiquities dealer who is now dead, in 2000 for $2.3 million by Michael H. Steinhardt, the billionaire hedge-fund pioneer who last year surrendered 180 artifacts that officials determined had likely been stolen from archaeological sites.
The kouros, sculpted around 560 B.C. and depicting a youth with 14 rows of braids draping his back, was among the 55 illicit items — valued in total by officials at $20.2 million — that were handed over on Wednesday to the Greek government.
Investigators said 47 of the objects came from Mr. Steinhardt’s collection of Greco-Roman artifacts. Mr. Steinhardt agreed to surrender those items and more than 100 additional artifacts from nearly a dozen countries, valued all told at $70 million, in December after officials said they had been illegally imported into the United States. As a result, Mr. Steinhardt, 81, agreed to a lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities.
During the handover ceremony at the district attorney’s office, the Greek culture minister, Dr. Lina Mendoni, thanked federal investigators and the office’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit, led by Assistant District Attorney Mathew Bogdanos, which worked with Greek officials to identify the items.
“The illegal trafficking of our country’s cultural treasures is a serious trauma that hurts all Greeks all over the world,” she said. “We work systematically to stop this crime.”
Since announcing the agreement with Mr. Steinhardt in December, the district attorney’s office and officials from Homeland Security Investigations have repatriated 200 confiscated items to Italy, 28 to Turkey, five to Iraq, and an ancient war helmet to Bulgaria.
During the ceremony on Wednesday, the acting special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New York, Ricky J. Patel, said: “The stories attached to many of these irreplaceable artifacts date back to ancient Greece, circa 6000-4000 B.C., and tell the story of the history and culture of an older world. Thankfully, they will now be returned home, so that their stories can be told to future generations.”
In December, lawyers for Mr. Steinhardt said in a statement that “many of the dealers from whom Mr. Steinhardt bought these items made specific representations as to the dealers’ lawful title to the items.” They added that their client “reserved his rights to seek recompense from the dealers involved.”