03 Feb 2023, 11:40

New York returns 14 stolen antiquities to Italy

NEW YORK, Feb 3, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - Authorities in New York announced
Thursday the return to Italy of 14 antiquities worth an estimated $2.5
million, as part of a criminal investigation into smuggling of stolen

The Manhattan District Attorney's office over the past two years has been
conducting an extensive campaign into looted antiquities that have ended up
in New York museums and galleries -- including the prestigious Metropolitan
Museum of Art.

During a ceremony Thursday with the Italian consul general and Italian police
representatives, 14 more artifacts -- some 2,600 years old -- were returned
to Italy, bringing the total number of repatriated pieces to that country
over the past seven months to 214, District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office

More than 700 pieces worth more than $100 million have been returned in the
past year to 17 countries, including Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq,
Greece and Italy, the statement added.

New York, a hub of stolen antiquities trafficking for decades, set up a task
force in 2017 to investigate the illicit trade.

According to the statement by District Attorney Bragg, who took office in
January 2022, Thursday's repatriation included the silver "Sicily Naxos
Coin," minted around 430 BCE and currently valued at half a million dollars.

Other notable items included ancient pottery dating to 510 BCE, and a marble
head of Roman Emperor Hadrian, dating to 200 CE.

Among the culprits behind the 14 returned pieces, the statement said, were
well-known art traffickers Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Franco Becchina, as
well as Robert Hecht, the Paris-based American art dealer who died in 2012.

The traffickers had "relied on gangs of tombaroli (tomb raiders) to loot
carefully chosen and insufficiently guarded archaeological sites throughout
the Mediterranean," it added.

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