New York City returns to Italy looted antiquities worth $19 million (video)

1 min read

The district attorney of Manhattan in New York presented Tuesday (September 6) 58 looted antiquities worth an estimated $19 million it said it would be returning to Italy.

The batch includes “The Marble Head of Athena,” worth an estimated $3 million, according to Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, the chief of the Manhattan DA’s office’s antiquities trafficking unit. 

Like several of the other items, it had been on display at the Met in New York. 

“We are privileged to return it today,” Bogdanos said. 

Bogdanos had no comment on the propriety of artifacts located in foreign lands beyond questions related to unlawful ownership. 

Also among the others items include the drinking cup, “White-Ground Kylix,” and the, “Bronze Bust of a Man,” in addition to other vases, platters and other kitchenware.

looted antiquities
Terracotta kylix (drinking cup) ca. 470 B.C. Credit line: MET/BOT / Alamy / Alamy / Profimedia

On hand for the repatriation ceremony was Italian police General, Roberto Riccardi. The pieces are “part of our past, our ancestors. And they belong to the community. They will go back to the community to which they belong and to the future generations,” he said during the ceremony. 

He took part in a signing ceremony with staffers from the Manhattan DA.

The haul adds to the Manhattan DA’s antiquities inventory. Since the start of the last decade, the antiquities unit has brought in 4,500 pieces valued at more than $250 million, according to Bogdanos. 

And in his interview, he promised, “many more seizures and many more repatriations to follow throughout the remainder of the year.”

These particular items were connected to convicted looters including, Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Franco Becchina. And according to the Manhattan DA’s office, the traffickers used locals to raid unguarded sites in Italy. 

looted antiquities
Marble head of Athena, Hellenistic, ca. 200 B.C., Greek, Marble, H. 19 in. (48.26 cm). Credit line: Album – quintlox / Album / Profimedia

For Bogdanos, the recent successes are connected to unprecedented cooperation.

“It’s happening now because… the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office formed the Antiquities Trafficking Unit, the only one of its kind in the world in which prosecutors, investigators and analysts are all on the same team.” Via REUTERS

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