Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., announced yesterday the return of 29 looted antiquities to the People of Greece. Among the pieces, which are collectively valued at over $20 million, is the extraordinarily rare Eid Mar Coin, which commemorates the murder of Julius Caesar. All were seized pursuant to multiple criminal investigations into high-profile traffickers and smugglers. The antiquities were returned during a repatriation ceremony at the Greek Consulate attended by Greek Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni, Consul General Konstantinos Konstantinou, and Ivan J. Arvelo, Special Agent in Charge at Homeland Security Investigations, New York.
“I am proud that under my administration this office has now repatriated 950 antiquities to 17 countries,” said District Attorney Bragg. “I thank our outstanding team of analysts, investigators and attorneys, along with our law enforcement partners, for their excellent work finding and returning these historical marvels.”
Greece’s Minister of Culture, Lina Mendoni, said “On behalf of the Hellenic Government, from the bottom of my heart, I would like to congratulate and thank the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and in particular Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos and his associates for their contribution in investigating and eventually repatriating 29 ancient Hellenic antiquities. The close relationship and cooperation that has been built over the last years between Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Hellenic Republic, guarantees that many more successes will follow”.
“Antiquities trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar business with looters and smugglers turning a profit at the expense of cultural heritage, and Greece – long acknowledged as the cradle of Western Civilization – is especially susceptible to this type of criminal enterprise,” said Special Agent in Charge for HSI in New York Ivan J. Arvelo. “These treasured artifacts date from as far back as 5000 B.C.E. and were a valued part of life in the ancient world. We are honored to join our partners today in the repatriation of this priceless cultural heritage to the people of Greece.”
Key pieces returned include:
The Bronze Calyx Krater, which dates to 350 B.C.E., once held the bones of a deceased individual in a chamber tomb. It was looted and smuggled into Switzerland, where it was cleaned and restored by Fritz and Harry Bürki, the Zurich-based restorers and business partners of Robert Hecht. Hecht then arranged to smuggle the piece into New York, where it was sold to Leon Levy and Shelby White. It was seized by the Office in January of this year.
The Eid Mar Coin, minted in 42 B.C.E., commemorates the murder of Julius Caesar. Eid Mar Coins were minted to pay Brutus’s troops after he fled Greece following Caesar’s assassination. Gold Eid Mar coins are extremely rare, and this is only one of three known coins of its type. The coin first surfaced on the international art market in 2016, where it was offered for sale in Munich with no provenance. It was then smuggled into London, where it was sold to a U.S.-based buyer. It was seized by the Office in February of this year during a joint investigation with multiple foreign law enforcement agencies
The Neolithic Family Group, which dates to 5000-3500 B.C.E and valued at $3 million. This group of objects compromises five human and animal figures carved from marble, and was looted from the island of Euboea by a Greek trafficker who smuggled the pieces into Switzerland. In 1982 dealer-trafficker Nicolas Koutoulakis sold the group to New York-based collectors Leon Levy and Shelby White. White loaned the group to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2000, where they remained on display until March of this year, when it was seized by the Office.
During District Attorney Bragg’s tenure, the ATU has recovered more than 750 antiquities stolen from 26 countries and valued at more than $130 million. Since its creation, the ATU has recovered nearly 4,500 antiquities stolen from 28 countries and valued at more than $360 million.
Under District Attorney Bragg, the ATU has also repatriated more than 950 antiquities stolen from 17 countries and valued at more than $160 million. Since its creation, the ATU has returned almost 2,500 antiquities to 23 countries and valued at more than $238 million.
Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos, Chief of the Antiquities Trafficking Unit and Senior Trial Counsel, supervised the investigations, which were conducted by Assistant District Attorneys Yuval Simchi-Levi and Taylor Holland; Supervising Investigative Analyst Apsara Iyer, Investigative Analysts Daniel Healey, Alyssa Thiel, and Hilary Chassé; and Special Agents Robert Mancene, John Paul Labbat, and Brenton Easter of Homeland Security Investigations (DHS-HSI) New York. Investigative support was provided by Elena Vlachogianni, Head of the Department of Documentation and Protection of Cultural Goods of Greece’s Ministry of Culture, and Special Agents James C. Abell and Aaron Klein of DHS-HSI Baltimore. Additional investigative support was provided by Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis for one of the objects in today’s ceremony.
The District Attorney’s Office would like to thank Royal-Athena Galleries and Shelby White for their assistance and cooperation with our investigations.