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Billionaire Michael Steinhardt has given up more than 100 illegally-smuggled antiquities worth $70 million.
Following an investigation that started in 2017, the prolific art collector reached a deal with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office that saw him handing over 180 pieces.
He also received a lifetime ban on acquiring other antiquities.
In a statement, District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr said:
For decades, Michael Steinhardt displayed a rapacious appetite for plundered artifacts without concern for the legality of his actions, the legitimacy of the pieces he bought and sold, or the grievous cultural damage he wrought across the globe.
The inquiry into Steinhardt’s collection found that there was ‘compelling evidence’ that the collection contained items stolen from 11 countries.
At least 171 items passed through traffickers before Steinhardt had purchased them.
Vance said of the origins of Steinhardt’s collection:
His pursuit of ‘new’ additions to showcase and sell knew no geographic or moral boundaries, as reflected in the sprawling underworld of antiquities traffickers, crime bosses, money launderers and tomb raiders he relied upon to expand his collection.
There was a lack of verifiable provenance of the seized items from before they reached the international art market, while the investigation had been conducted alongside authorities in Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, and Turkey.
The items include a 4th Century B.C stag’s head that was loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1993.
Vance confirmed that these items would be returned to their owners rather than stay in evidence.
This resolution also enables my office to shield the identity of the many witnesses here and abroad whose names would be released at any trial, to protect the integrity of parallel investigations in each of the 11 countries with whom we are conducting joint investigations.
Following the investigation, Steinhardt’s lawyers, Andrew Levander and Theodore Wells, said that their client was pleased the investigation had concluded.
They added that ‘items wrongfully taken by others will be returned to their native countries’.
Steinhardt, who turns 81 today, December 7, built his fortune running the hedge fund Steinhardt Partners. Forbes estimates that his worth is $1.2 billion.
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