Michael Steinhardt, a billionaire New York financier and antiquities collector, has turned over surrendered 180 looted objects valued at $70 million and received a lifetime ban on future acquisitions, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

Steinhardt agreed to the forfeiture after a four-year investigation determined that the seized objects had been plundered and illegally smuggled out of 11 countries: Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, and Turkey.

A pioneer of the modern hedge fund, Michael Steinhardt closed his fund in 1995 after making a fortune in the 1990s from stellar returns. He cofounded Birthright Israel, a foundation that provides funding for young Jewish Americans to take heritage trips to Israel. source: Forbes

The works eventually appeared on the art market without paperwork establishing a verifiable provenance.

For decades, Michael Steinhardt displayed a rapacious appetite for plundered artifacts without concern for the legality of his actions, the legitimacy of the pieces he bought and sold, or the grievous cultural damage he wrought across the globe,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement. “His pursuit of ‘new’ additions to showcase and sell knew no geographic or moral boundaries, as reflected in the sprawling underworld of antiquities traffickers, crime bosses, money launderers, and tomb raiders he relied upon to expand his collection.”

The investigation into Steinhardt began in February 2017, after prosecutors determined that he had purchased a statue looted from Lebanon during the country’s Civil War, and subsequently loaned it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. An inquiry into his record of acquisitions only heightened suspicions of further criminal misconduct and led to the formation of a joint investigation with investigators in the 11 countries.

Steinhardt will not face charges if he abides by all terms of the agreement. According to Vance, the items are to be “returned expeditiously to their rightful owners,” rather than held as evidence. The resolution will also help prosecutors “shield the identity of the many witnesses here and abroad whose names would be released at any trial.”

The Kouros trunk, source: Ministry of Culture of Greece

47 antiquities return to Greece

Among the 180 artifacts, 47 came from Greece and more specifically from Central Greece, Crete, the Cyclades (Paros, Naxos), Samos and Rhodes.

Among them stand out a Minoan shrine, a Kouros trunk, a bronze griffin bust, Cycladic vessels, figurines and bronze swords.

The Greek ministry of Culture thanked Manhattan D.A, Matthew Bogdanos, for his contribution.

Bogdano’s role

Bogdanos, the 64-year-old prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, is chief of its Antiquities Trafficking Unit.

The only one of its kind in the world, his squad of prosecutors, criminal investigators, and art specialists polices the loftiest reaches of New York’s art market—a club of museums, collectors, and auction houses that buy and sell the relics of ancient civilizations.


Over the past decade, Bogdanos and his agents have impounded more than 3,600 antiquities, valued at some $200 million from NY’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to Christie’s in Rockefeller Center and to five-star hotels Mark Hotel and Pierre.

Son of Greek migrants, Bogdanos grew up in New York “busing tables at his parents’ Greek restaurant in Kips Bay” as he said in an interview to The Atlantic.

Former boxer and member of the U.S. Marine Corps, he holds a bachelor’s in classical studies from Bucknell, a degree in law from Columbia University Law School, a Master’s Degree in Classical Studies from Columbia University and a Master’s in Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College.

Source: artnews.com, theatlantic.com