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

  • December 07, 2021

In a statement on Monday, his lawyer, Andrew J. Levander, said: “Mr. Steinhardt is pleased that the District Attorney’s yearslong investigation has concluded without any charges, and that items wrongfully taken by others will be returned to their native countries. Many of the dealers from whom Mr. Steinhardt bought these items made specific representations as to the dealers’ lawful title to the items, and to their alleged provenance. To the extent these representations were false, Mr. Steinhardt has reserved his rights to seek recompense from the dealers involved.”

According to prosecutors, 171 of the 180 seized antiquities first surfaced in the possession of accused antiquities traffickers, including two who have been convicted in Italy — Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Becchina. They said the investigation revealed that 101 of the items, all covered in dirt and encrustations, were visible and identifiable in photographs found in the possession of known traffickers.

Christos Tsirogiannis, an associate professor at the University of Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies in Denmark, who specializes in searching photographic archives seized from antiquities dealers, said traffickers use such photos to advertise their looted wares to small groups of wealthy collectors. Dr. Tsirogiannis is one of about 60 researchers, investigators and foreign law enforcement officials credited by the prosecutors’ office with assisting in the case.

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

In explaining the agreement not to prosecute so long as Mr. Steinhardt abides by all its terms, Mr. Vance said the arrangement would allow for the items to be “returned expeditiously to their rightful owners” rather than being held as evidence. It would also help his office to “shield the identity of the many witnesses here and abroad whose names would be released at any trial.”

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