Michael Steinhardt, Billionaire, Surrenders $70 Million in Stolen Relics

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The hedge money pioneer is barred for beingness from buying much antiquities. He turned implicit 180 stolen objects that had decorated his homes and office.

Michael H. Steinhardt successful  2006. The territory  attorney’s bureau   connected  Monday announced an statement  barring Mr. Steinhardt, a hedge money  billionaire, from ever   acquiring antiquities again. He surrendered 180 stolen, trafficked pieces.
Credit...David Karp/Taglit-Birthright, via Associated Press

Dec. 6, 2021

Michael H. Steinhardt, the billionaire hedge money pioneer and 1 of New York’s astir prolific antiquities collectors, has surrendered 180 stolen objects valued astatine $70 cardinal and been barred for beingness from acquiring immoderate different relics, the Manhattan territory attorney’s bureau said successful a connection Monday.

The prosecutor’s bureau struck an statement with Mr. Steinhardt aft a four-year multinational probe that determined that the seized pieces had been looted and smuggled from 11 countries, trafficked by 12 illicit networks and appeared connected the planetary creation marketplace without lawful paperwork, the bureau said.

“For decades, Michael Steinhardt displayed a rapacious appetite for plundered artifacts without interest for the legality of his actions, the legitimacy of the pieces helium bought and sold, oregon the grievous taste harm helium wrought crossed the globe,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said, adding: “This statement establishes that Steinhardt volition beryllium taxable to an unprecedented beingness prohibition connected acquiring antiquities.”

Mr. Steinhardt, a Brooklyn autochthonal who turns 81 connected Tuesday, is simply a large contributor to New York University and to galore Jewish philanthropies. There is simply a Steinhardt conservatory astatine the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and a Steinhardt Gallery astatine the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In a connection connected Monday, his lawyer, Andrew J. Levander, said: “Mr. Steinhardt is pleased that the District Attorney’s yearslong probe has concluded without immoderate charges, and that items wrongfully taken by others volition beryllium returned to their autochthonal countries. Many of the dealers from whom Mr. Steinhardt bought these items made circumstantial representations arsenic to the dealers’ lawful rubric to the items, and to their alleged provenance. To the grade these representations were false, Mr. Steinhardt has reserved his rights to question recompense from the dealers involved.”

According to prosecutors, 171 of the 180 seized antiquities archetypal surfaced successful the possession of accused antiquities traffickers, including 2 who person been convicted successful Italy — Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Becchina. They said the probe revealed that 101 of the items, each covered successful ungraded and encrustations, were disposable and identifiable successful photographs recovered successful the possession of known traffickers.


Credit...New York District Attorney’s Office

Christos Tsirogiannis, an subordinate prof astatine the University of Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies successful Denmark, who specializes successful searching photographic archives seized from antiquities dealers, said traffickers usage specified photos to advertise their looted wares to tiny groups of affluent collectors. Dr. Tsirogiannis is 1 of astir 60 researchers, investigators and overseas instrumentality enforcement officials credited by the prosecutors’ bureau with assisting successful the case.

As portion of its inquiry, Mr. Vance’s bureau said, prosecutors executed 17 hunt warrants and worked with officials successful 11 countries — Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, and Turkey.

In explaining the statement not to prosecute truthful agelong arsenic Mr. Steinhardt abides by each its terms, Mr. Vance said the statement would let for the items to beryllium “returned expeditiously to their rightful owners” alternatively than being held arsenic evidence. It would besides assistance his bureau to “shield the individuality of the galore witnesses present and overseas whose names would beryllium released astatine immoderate trial.”

Nonetheless, the lawsuit and different caller seizures show that the office’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit is acceptable to scope acold backmost successful clip to confiscate objects based connected a New York authorities statute that allows prosecutors to instrumentality stolen spot to its “rightful owners” careless of erstwhile a theft mightiness person occurred.


Credit...New York District Attorney’s Office

Mr. Steinhardt’s dealings with prosecutors implicit fishy antiquities day backmost to the 1990s. In 1997, a national justice ruled that Mr. Steinhardt had illegally imported a aureate bowl, known arsenic a phiale, from Italy successful 1992. The object, dating to 450 B.C. and costing $1 million, was seized from Mr. Steinhardt’s location successful 1995. The justice rejected his contention astatine the clip that helium was an “innocent owner” with nary cognition of irregularities.

In 2018, investigators raided his office and Fifth Avenue location and took distant respective past works they said had been looted from Greece and Italy. That seizure came connected the heels of a 2017 seizure of a marble statue stolen from a temple successful Sidon, Lebanon, which Mr. Steinhardt relinquished and which has been returned.

The 2017 seizure led to the enactment of the trafficking unit, which pressed the lawsuit that was resolved connected Monday. Officials said the portion has recovered much than 3,000 items valued astatine $200 million, and that astatine slightest 1,500 person been returned to their owners and countries of origin. It said hundreds are acceptable to beryllium repatriated “as soon arsenic the applicable countries are capable to person them amid the pandemic,” and much than 1,000 objects are being held awaiting the result of transgression proceedings.

(Separately, successful March 2019, Mr. Steinhardt was accused of a signifier of intersexual harassment by respective women who worked for the nonprofits helium supported.)

The confiscated items, which decorated Mr. Steinhardt’s homes and offices, and which helium often lent to large museums, came mostly from Italy, Greece and Israel, according to a database compiled by investigators.


Credit...New York District Attorney’s Office

They include:

  • A ceremonial libations vessel, oregon rhyton, that depicts a stag’s head, purchased from the Merrin Gallery of Manhattan for $2.6 cardinal successful November 1991. Officials said the item, which dates to 400 B.C., archetypal appeared connected the planetary creation marketplace without provenance aft rampant looting successful Milas, Turkey. In March 1993, prosecutors said, Mr. Steinhardt lent it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, wherever it was erstwhile instrumentality enforcement officials seized it. It has since been repatriated.

  • A larnax, oregon tiny thorax for quality remains, from Crete, that dates betwixt 1400-1200 B.C. Officials said the item, valued astatine $1 million, was purchased from a known antiquities trafficker and traced to Mr. Steinhardt done a fiscal instauration based successful Malta.

  • The “Ercolano Fresco,” purchased from Robert Hecht, who had faced accusations of trafficking successful antiquities, “with nary anterior provenance” for $650,000 successful November 1995. Dating to 50 B.C. and valued astatine $1 million, it depicts an babe Hercules strangling a snake sent by Hera to slay him. The fresco was looted successful 1995 from a Roman villa successful the ruins of Herculaneum, adjacent Naples, officials said.

  • A golden vessel looted from Nimrud, Iraq, and purchased without provenance papers, officials said, for $150,000 successful July 2020, astatine a clip erstwhile objects from Nimrud were being trafficked by the Islamic State successful Iraq and the Levant. Made of golden with a scalloped-flower design, the entity surfaced successful October 2019 erstwhile a Customs and Border Protection serviceman notified Mr. Vance’s bureau that idiosyncratic connected a formation from Hong Kong to Newark was hand-carrying the vessel for Mr. Steinhardt.

  • Three chromatic decease masks that appeared to beryllium encrusted with ungraded successful photographs recovered by the Israeli authorities. They day to 6000 B.C. and were purchased by Mr. Steinhardt for $400,000 successful October 2007.

    Prosecutors said Mr. Steinhardt had owned and traded much than 1,000 antiquities since 1987, and his creation postulation was valued astatine astir $200 million.

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