The Manhattan district attorney’s office returned to Iraq two objects confiscated from billionaire financier Michael H. Steinhardt and which officials say were looted during times of war and unrest there.
Last month, 81-year-old Brooklyn philanthropist and philanthropist Mr. Steinhardt made a deal Starting in 1987, with prosecutors saying they bought the remains and numerous others from known antiques smugglers, regardless of proper documentation.
He delivered a total of 180 items worth $70 million and accepted a lifetime ban from acquiring additional antiques.
The items returned Tuesday – a gold bowl and an ivory plaque – were the fifth and sixth illegal artifacts returned by new district attorney Alvin Bragg. antiquities smuggling unit, founded by his predecessor Cy Vance Jr. While federal authorities have dedicated resources specifically to stopping the smuggling of antiques, the district attorney’s office is the only law enforcement agency with a team dedicated to investigating such crimes.
“These illegally traded relics should not be kept in a billionaire’s estate thousands of miles 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 nation can see and appreciate a glimpse into the lives of their ancestors.”
In a statement in December, Mr. Steinhardt’s lawyer said his client was “gratified that the District Attorney’s years-long investigation has concluded without charges and that items wrongfully taken by others have been returned to their home countries”. He added that Mr Steinhardt “reserves the right to seek compensation from the dealers concerned”.
According to court documents, the gold bowl purchased by Mr. Steinhadt for $150,000 in 2020 was looted from the Nimrod region of Iraq, where the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, anciently sought to generate revenue through smuggling. Objects made of gold and other precious metals. However, court documents did not directly link the bowl to ISIS.
Investigators said Mr Steinhardt purchased the ivory plaque depicting a winged sphinx with a human head in September 2010 for $400,000. They said the plaque dates to the reign of Assyrian King Sargon I (721-725 BC) and may have been looted from northern Iraq during the Gulf War in the early 1990s.
Last week, the office said that a marble statue of a female head purchased by Mr Steinhardt in 2000 for $1.2 million had been returned to Libya.