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US billionaire surrenders looted antiquities worth $70m

December 8, 2021 at 11:09 am

Michael Steinhardt on April 12, 2012 [Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

A US billionaire hedge fund manager has surrendered 180 antiquities worth $70 million after an investigation found that they had been looted and illegally smuggled.

Michael Steinhardt, 81, illegally acquired art that was smuggled from 11 countries, including Egypt, Syria and Turkey, during wars or civil unrest using 12 criminal networks.

A raid on his home in 2018 revealed several stolen art pieces, including a ceremonial vessel in the shape of a stag’s head from 400BC, worth $3.5 million, which was taken from Milas in Turkey amidst widespread looting in the city.

They also retrieved a gold bowl looted from Nimrud in Iraq worth $150,000 where artefacts were being trafficked by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Daesh).

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In 2017 investigators seized a marble bull’s head statue stolen from a temple in Sidon, Lebanon, during the civil war in the country, from Steinhardt’s home.

The prosecutor’s office determined that the recovered artefacts were for sale on the international art market without lawful paperwork.

Steinhardt will not face criminal charges, but he has been given a lifetime ban from acquiring other artefacts.

US Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr said: “For decades, Michael Steinhardt displayed a rapacious appetite for plundered artefacts without concern for the legality of his actions.”

“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.”