Manhattan prosecutors return two artifacts to Iraq

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has returned to Iraq two items it seized from billionaire financier Michael H. Steinhardt and items that officials say were looted during times of war and instability over there.

Last month, Mr. Steinhardt, 81, a Brooklyn native and philanthropist, reach an agreement with prosecutors saying he acquired relics and other relics from known antiquities traffickers without regard to proper paperwork starting in 1987.

He surrendered a total of 180 items, worth $70 million, and agreed to never buy more antiques for life.

The items returned Tuesday – a golden bowl and an ivory plaque – were the fifth and sixth illegal artefacts returned under the authority of the new district attorney, Alvin Bragg, signaling readiness. willing to continue the work of a The antiquities trading unit established by his predecessor, Cyrus Vance Jr. Although federal authorities have devoted special resources to curbing the smuggling of antiquities, the district attorney’s office is the only law enforcement agency with a dedicated team to investigate such crimes.

“These illicitly trafficked relics should not be kept in a billionaire’s mansion, thousands of miles away from their homeland,” Mr Bragg said in a statement. “They should be displayed in a museum or university in their country of origin, where the people of that country can see and appreciate a glimpse into the lives of their ancestors.”

In a statement in December, Mr. Steinhardt’s attorney said his client is “delighted that the district attorney’s years-long investigation has ended without any charges and the objects were stolen.” Others mistakenly taken will be returned to their homeland”. He added that Mr. Steinhardt “reserved his right to seek reimbursement from the relevant dealers.”

According to court documents, the golden bowl, purchased by Mr. Steinhadt in 2020 for $150,000, was looted from Nimrud, Iraq, an area inhabited by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. , sought to increase sales by selling antiques. articles of gold and other precious metals. However, the court papers do not directly link the bowl to ISIS.

Investigators say Mr. Steinhardt purchased the ivory plaque engraved with the image of a winged sphinx in September 2010 for $400,000. They say the tablet dates from the time of King Sargon I of Assyria (721-725 BC) and may have been looted from northern Iraq during the Gulf War in the early 1990s.

Last week, the office said it had returned to Libya a marble sculpture of a woman’s head that was purchased by Steinhardt for $1.2 million in 2000. Manhattan prosecutors return two artifacts to Iraq

Fry Electronics Team

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