The return of 30 antiquities to Greece, collectively valued at $ 3.7 million, was announced on Friday by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in the city of New York.
The pieces were returned to Greek authorities during a repatriation ceremony attended by Greek Consul General Konstantinos Konstantinou, Secretary General of Culture Georgios Didaskalou, and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Assistant Special Agent in Charge Thomas Acocella.
Nineteen of the pieces were voluntarily surrendered from New York gallery owner Michael Ward, while three of the pieces were seized from British art dealer Robin Symes.
Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos, Chief of the Antiquities Trafficking Unit & Senior Trial Counsel, supervised the investigations, among others, while investigative support was provided by Elena Vlachogianni and Vasiliki Papageorgiou of the Department of Documentation & Protection of Cultural Goods of Greece’s Ministry of Culture.
“Cultural heritage is an integral part of our identity as people and nations. It is therefore essential and nowadays crucial to protect and preserve cultural heritage for future generations. I express my gratitude for the ongoing and fruitful cooperation with the New York District Attorney’s Office, and for the return of the 30 antiquities to Greece,” said Greek Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni.
Some of the key pieces being returned include:
– Marble Aphrodite: this marble statue is based on the famous Aphrodite of Knidos and was recovered from a storage unit that belonged to the convicted trafficker Robin Symes, where it had been hidden since at least 1999.
– Cycladic Marble Figure: originally illegally excavated from the Cycladic Islands in the Aegean Sea, this four-thousand-year-old marble figurine was seized from a storage unit belonging to a New York-based private collector by the ATU earlier this year.
– Corinthian Helmet: this bronze Corinthian helmet is an example of popular helmet style for Ancient Greek warriors, particularly in the Archaic and Classical periods (c. 700 B.C.E-350 B.C.E). It was smuggled out of Greece, given false provenance in Germany, and put on consignment with the New York-based art dealer Michael Ward who pled guilty to Criminal Facilitation in the Fourth Degree and admitted to purchasing stolen antiquities on consignment through his gallery as part of money-laundering scheme allegedly orchestrated by Eugene Alexander.