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US authorities raid billionaire’s home, seize antiquities allegedly looted from Greece and Italy

Investigators raided the office and the Manhattan home of the billionaire Michael H. Steinhardt on Friday afternoon, carrying off several ancient works, Prosecutors say the antiquities were looted from Greece and Italy.

Mr. Steinhardt, a hedge-fund manager and philanthropist, has been collecting art from ancient Greece for three decades and has close ties to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where one of the galleries is named for him.

In a telephone interview with New York Times, Mr. Steinhardt, 77, declined to comment, “for now,” on the seizure of at least nine pieces from his private collection at his Fifth Avenue apartment at 79th Street, a three-floor home that overlooks Central Park. The authorities also searched Mr. Steinhardt’s office at 712 Fifth Avenue.

The seizures marked the latest action in an effort by the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., to repatriate looted antiquities discovered in New York City to their countries of origin.

Over the last year, Mr. Vance has roiled the city’s rarefied art world, seizing work from major museums, auction houses and private collections.

Last month, Mr. Vance formed an antiquities-trafficking bureau to continue the work, putting it under the leadership of Matthew Bogdanos*, an assistant district attorney who is a classics scholar and has headed most of the investigations.

Among the pieces seized on Friday from Mr. Steinhardt was a Greek white-ground attic lekythos — or oil vessel — from the fifth century B.C., depicting a funeral scene with the figures of a woman and a youth, according to the search warrant. It is worth at least $380,000.

Also seized were Proto-Corinthian figures from the seventh century B.C., depicting an owl and a duck, together worth about $250,000. The other pieces included an Apulian terra-cotta flask in the shape of an African head from the fourth century B.C.; an Ionian sculpture of a ram’s head from the sixth century; and an attic aryballos, a vessel for oil or perfume, from the early fifth century. The objects were all bought in the last 12 years for a total cost of $1.1 million, according to the warrants.

The district attorney’s office declined to comment on the evidence underpinning the search warrants. The possible charge listed on the papers is possession of stolen property. full article NYTimes

*Colonel Matthew Bogdanos is an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan (since 1988), author, and a colonel in the United States Marine Corps Reserves. In 2003, while on active duty in the Marine Corps, he led an investigation into the looting of Iraq’s National Museum, and was subsequently awarded the National Humanities Medal for his efforts.

Bogdanos is one of a set of twins born and raised in New York to parents who had immigrated from Greece. Growing up he waited tables in his parents’ Greek restaurant in lower Manhattan.

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2 comments

  1. Proud Greek American US Military Officer who is making us proud catching these snakes who steal and obtain antiquities from Greece and beyond!

  2. Martin Baldwin-Edwards

    Almost everything from Ancient Greece that resides outside of its original location (i.e. Greece, Italy etc) was stolen or looted at one point in time. This includes entire collections in many museums in Germany, France, the UK, USA…

    However, I have doubts about the wisdom of returning things to the Greek state museums. Unless these articles were stolen in the last decade or two, it looks like trying to undo several centuries of modern history. Better to use the thefts of the past for Greece to secure better economic terms and conditions for the present.

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