US returns veiled head of ancient woman to Libya

U.S. prosecutors and law enforcement have announced they will return an ancient antiquity to Libya after investigators concluded smugglers stole the marble artifact from its home country.

“It is with great pleasure that we return the Veiled head of a woman Return to the Libyan nation, from where it was looted during the civil unrest, ”said Erik Rosenblatt, deputy special agent in charge of homeland security investigations in New York.

“Although this antiquity has a monetary value of over $ 1.2 million, it is the historical and sentimental value of the antiques that makes it invaluable to the Libyan people.”

A lengthy investigation last month concluded that New York billionaire Michael H Steinhardt bought the antique in 2000. It came from a grave in the ancient city of Cyrene, now Shahhat, in northeastern Kyrgyzstan. Libya.

Prosecutors have worked for the past five years with investigators from several countries, including Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Israel, Turkey and Lebanon.

They said Mr. Steinhardt – whose net worth is estimated by Forbes at $ 1.2 billion – has owned and traded more than 1,000 antiques since 1987 and his art collection has been valued at around $ 200 million. .

His lawyers said he agreed to hand over 180 stolen antiques worth $ 70 million. Mr. Steinhardt, 81, of Brooklyn, has been banned for life from acquiring antiques.

“I am committed to ensuring that transactions in the art industry are legal and that those selling stolen or looted antiques are closed,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. “Although the price of a million dollars on this relic is impressive, you cannot put a price on a country’s cultural heritage.

the Veiled head of a woman is the first object of the collection looted from 11 countries to be repatriated.

A Neolithic mask (C) on loan from Michael Steinhardt is on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.  PA

Antiques had been trafficked for years by 12 illicit networks and appeared on the international art market without legal papers.

New York State laws allow prosecutors to return stolen property such as antiques to their rightful owners, regardless of the date of the theft.

The United States is one of the first countries to sign and ratify the 1970 Unesco Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

Unesco estimates that the illegal trade in antiques and cultural rakes is worth around $ 10 billion a year.

Updated: January 13, 2022 9:49 am

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