Ancient Artifacts Worth Over $13M Have Been Seized by Authorities in New York

The Manhattan district attorney’s office, working with federal investigators, has located and seized 27 ancient artifacts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The historic artifacts have a combined value of over $13 million.

The objects which were acquired by the Met for displays representing the Roman, Greek and Egyptian civilizations were allegedly looted according to the investigators who spoke to The New York Times.

The report details that the artifacts were tracked through the hands of individuals whom authorities have suspected of trafficking illegal antiquities for decades.

One such person was Gianfranco Becchina, the proprietor of a gallery in Switzerland who was investigated by Italian authorities in 2001 on suspicion of illegal dealings.

According to the Times, most of the items had entered the Met’s collection some time prior to the accusations made against Becchina.

The 27 antiques were seized from the museum under three separate search warrants over a period of six months. They are set to be returned to their nations of origin, with 21 being sent to Italy and six going to Egypt.

An official representing District Attorney Alvin Bragg told CNN “We have two repatriation ceremonies next week, one with Italy and one with Egypt. Fifty-eight objects will go back to Italy, 21 from the Met. Sixteen to Egypt, six from the Met.”

Bragg told the outlet, “It should be no secret to collectors, art museums and auction houses that they may be in possession of pieces from known traffickers that were illegally looted.”

“The investigations conducted by my office have clearly exposed these networks and put into the public domain a wealth of information the art world can proactively use to return antiquities to where they rightfully belong. Our investigations, which have led to the repatriation of nearly 2,000 objects, will continue,” he added.

The repatriation of the allegedly looted artifacts will be conducted in official ceremonies next week according to the Manhattan district attorney‘s office. The Times reported that the repatriations have been coordinated as a part of a major push to speed up the reparations, which in the past have taken a year or longer.

In a statement reported by The Times, the Metropolitan Museum of Art said, “Each of these objects has unique and complex circumstances, and with all, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has been fully supportive of the Manhattan district attorney’s office investigations.”

“The norms of collecting have changed significantly in recent decades, and The Met’s policies and procedures in this regard have been under constant review over the past 20 years.”

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Of the 27 items seized, eight were acquired directly from Becchina, according to the Manhattan DA the Times wrote.

In its statement to the media, The Met said that the information on the Italian artifacts was only recently made available to the museum by the Manhattan DA and that the institution has been fully cooperating with authorities.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.