The Manhattan District Attorney’s office on Friday announced the official return of 30 rare antiquities to Greece, which were valued at $3.7 million.
Manhattan DA Alvin L. Bragg, Jr said 19 of the ancient objects were voluntarily returned by New York City gallery owner Michael Ward, whereas three pieces were seized from convicted British art dealer Robin Symes.
The artifacts were returned to the Greek state during a ceremony attended by Greece’s consul general in New York, Konstantinos Konstantinou, culture minister secretary general Georgios Didaskalou and US Homeland Security Investigations assistant special agent-in-charge Thomas Acocella.
Bragg referred to “…an exquisite set of 30 antiquities that represents the extraordinary depth and beauty of Greece’s cultural heritage. These cases are a team effort and I am extremely grateful to each of the analysts and prosecutors in my Office who put in tireless work to bring these pieces home. We will continue to aggressively investigate those who are using Manhattan as a base to traffic stolen antiquities.”
On behalf of the Greek state, Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said: “Cultural heritage is an integral part of our identity as people and nations. It is therefore essential and nowadays crucial to protect and preserve cultural heritage for future generations. I express my gratitude for the ongoing and fruitful cooperation with the New York District Attorney’s Office, and for the return of the 30 antiquities to Greece.”
The DA’s office said some of the most prominent artifacts include:
- A marble Aphrodite, a statue based on the famous Aphrodite of Knidos. The artifact was recovered from a storage unit that belonged to the antiquities trafficker Symes, where it had been hidden since at least 1999.
- A Cycladic Marble Figure originally illegally excavated from the one of the islands that make up the island chain in the central Aegean Sea. The piece is described as a 4,000-year-old marble figurine seized from a storage unit belonging to a New York-based private collector earlier in the year.
- A bronze Corinthian Helmet characterized as an example of a popular helmet style for ancient Greek warriors, particularly in the Archaic and Classical periods (c. 700 B.C.E-350 B.C.E). The artifact was smuggled out of Greece, given false provenance in Germany, and put on consignment with New York-based art dealer Michael Ward who pled guilty to criminal facilitation in the fourth degree. He also confessed to purchasing stolen antiquities on consignment through his gallery as part of money-laundering scheme allegedly orchestrated by Eugene Alexander, US authorities said.
Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos, the chief of the antiquities trafficking unit (ATU) and senior trial counsel, supervised the investigations, which were conducted by Assistant District Attorneys Christine DiDomenico and Yuval Simchi-Levi, according to the press release.