LIFE / CULTURE
New York prosecutors return $19m of stolen antiquities to Italy
Published: Sep 07, 2022 10:14 PM
Prosecutors in New York on Tuesday returned dozens of antiquities, valued at around $19 million, stolen from Italy, some of which were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"These 58 pieces represent thousands of years of rich history, yet traffickers throughout Italy utilized looters to steal these items and to line their own pockets," said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, noting that it was the third such repatriation in nine months. 

"For far too long, they have sat in museums, homes, and galleries that had no rightful claim to their ownership," he said at a ceremony attended by Italian diplomats and law enforcement officials.

The stolen items had been sold to Michael Steinhardt, one of the world's leading collectors of ancient art, the DA's office said, adding that he had been slapped with a "first-of-its-kind lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities." 

Among the recovered treasures, which in some cases were sold to "unwitting collectors and museums," were a marble head of the Greek goddess Athena from 200BC and a drinking cup dating back to 470BC, officials said.

The pieces were stolen at the behest of four men who "all led highly lucrative criminal enterprises - often in competition with one another - where they would use local looters to raid archaeological sites throughout Italy, many of which were insufficiently guarded," the DA's office said.

One of them, Pasquale Camera, was "a regional crime boss who organized thefts from museums and churches as early as the 1960s. He then began purchasing stolen artifacts from local looters and sold them to antiquities dealers," it added.