Greek antiquities valued at $3.7 m. recovered from New York smugglers

According to a statement from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. earlier this month, 30 antiquities, with a collective value of $3.7 million, were returned to Greece.

The pieces were returned during a repatriation ceremony attended by Consul General Konstantinos Konstantinou, Secretary General of Culture Georgios Didaskalou, and US Homeland Security Investigations Assistant Special Agent in Charge Thomas Acocella.

A New York gallery owner, Michael Ward, voluntarily surrendered 19 of the pieces. Three of the pieces were seized from British art dealer Robin Symes.

District Attorney Bragg remarked, “This is an exquisite set of 30 antiquities that represents the extraordinary depth and beauty of Greece’s cultural heritage. We will continue to aggressively investigate those who are using Manhattan as a base to traffic stolen antiquities.”

Acting Special Agent in Charge Erin Keegan of Homeland Security Investigations in New York said, “These 30 artifacts represent some of the most significant remnants from the past, playing a crucial role in shaping the vibrant Greek culture we see today. A nation’s cherished history should never be pilfered, peddled, or marketed for sale, yet for years, these antiquities were kept in collectors’ homes, prestigious institutions, and even storage lockers.”

New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg leaves after former US President Donald Trump’s indictment by a Manhattan grand jury following a probe into hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels, in New York City, US, March 30, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/EDUARDO MUNOZ)

The recovered antiquities

Several of the most notable pieces are thousands of years old. A marble statue of Aphrodite of Knidos was recovered from a storage unit that belonged to the convicted trafficker Robin Symes, where it had been hidden since at least 1999. 

A bronze Corinthian helmet was smuggled out of Greece and put on consignment with the New York-based art dealer Michael Ward. Ward pleaded guilty to Criminal Facilitation in the Fourth Degree and admitted to purchasing stolen antiquities on consignment through his gallery as part of a money-laundering scheme allegedly orchestrated by Eugene Alexander. 

Minister of Culture Dr. 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.” She also expressed thanks to the District Attorney for his effort and cooperation. 

Ambassador Dinos Konstantinou from The Consul General of Greece in New York also thanked the District Attorney and added that these artifacts are “priceless for the Greek people.”

During District Attorney Bragg’s tenure, the ATU recovered over 1,000 antiquities stolen from more than two dozen countries and valued them at nearly $225 million. Since its creation in 2017, the ATU has recovered more than 4,700 antiquities valued at nearly $450 million and has returned more than 4,250 of them so far to 25 countries.

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