A billionaire was slapped with a “first of its kind” lifetime ban from buying antiquities when an investigation revealed that he bought 180 stolen ancient artifacts.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said Monday that billionaire hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt, known as a collector of ancient art, purchased $70 million of antiquities that were “illegally smuggled out of 11 countries, trafficked by 12 criminal smuggling networks, and lacked verifiable provenance prior to appearing on the international art market.”
DIVER FINDS 900-YEAR-OLD CRUSADER SWORD OFF COAST OF ISRAEL
Steinhardt surrendered the pieces to authorities so they could be returned to their rightful owners under an agreement filed with the Manhattan Supreme Court. He will not face criminal charges.
“For decades, Michael Steinhardt displayed a rapacious appetite for plundered artifacts without concern for the legality of his actions, the legitimacy of the pieces he bought and sold, or the grievous cultural damage he wrought across the globe,” Vance said. “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.”
The district attorney said “many of the seized antiquities were trafficked following civil unrest or looting,” including a bull’s head statue stolen during the Lebanese Civil War, which prompted the opening of the 2017 investigation.
Vance said some of the artifacts Steinhardt surrendered included three 8,000- to 9,000-year-old death masks from Israel, a Turkish libation vessel in the shape of a stag’s head from 400 B.C. now worth $3.5 million, and a chest for human remains from Crete dating back to 1400 to 1200 B.C.
Steinhardt loaned the death masks for display in Jerusalem in 2014, and his wife wrote in the catalog that they had hung in their personal library for years.
"The masks represent a near eternal visage, their stone substance both powerful and quiet," said Judy Steinhardt wrote. "Michael and I have lived with these masks for the past 25 years and we love spending quiet hours in our library together surrounded by these evocative works."
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
All the artifacts Steinhardt surrendered were linked to known antiquity smugglers or disappeared from their home countries during civil unrest, Vance said.
The 11 countries that conducted parallel investigations with the New York district attorney were Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, and Turkey.