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Hedge fund pioneer Michael Steinhardt is donating stolen antiques, says Vance

Michael Steinhardt

Scott Ells | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Hedge fund pioneer and philanthropist Michael Steinhardt turned in 180 stolen antiques worth $ 70 million and is banned from purchasing antiques for life, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said Monday.

The transfer of items came after the investigation of billionaire Steinhardt’s “criminal behavior” began in 2017, the district attorney said in a statement. The agreement completes a grand jury investigation into Steinhardt, which means he won’t face a criminal charge, according to the district attorney’s office.

“The seized items were looted and smuggled out of 11 countries, smuggled by 12 criminal smuggling networks, and had no verifiable provenance prior to the international art market, according to the fact sheet summarizing the investigation,” the agency said in a statement.

Vance said the deal with 80-year-old Steinhardt would result in the stolen items being returned to their rightful owners in those countries instead of being held as evidence “to complete a grand jury indictment, trial, potential conviction and sentence.”

Agreement takes place three years after investigators raided Steinhardt’s office and home as part of Vance’s investigation.… The district attorney said Steinhardt’s consent to a lifetime antiquity ban was “unprecedented.”

<< While Steinhardt's decades of indifference to peoples' rights to their own sacred treasures are appalling, the interests of pre-indictment and trial justice are fueling the adoption of a resolution that ensures that much of the damage done to the world's cultural heritage is remedied once and forever, "Vance said.

Steinhardt founded his company Steinhardt Partners LLP in 1967. He closed the hedge fund in 1995. He also served 15 years as chairman of the board. of Wisdom Tree Investments prior to retirement in 2019.

Steinhardt’s lawyers, Andrew Levander and Theodore Wells Jr., said in a statement: “Mr. Steinhardt is pleased that the district attorney’s long-standing investigation has ended without charge and that items illegally seized by others will be returned to family. country “.

“Many of the dealers from whom Mr. Steinhardt bought these items made specific statements regarding the dealers’ legal ownership of the items and their alleged origin,” the lawyers said. “To the extent that these claims were false, Mr. Steinhardt retained the right to claim compensation from the dealers involved.”

The district attorney’s office said the investigation began when investigators examined a statue of a Lebanese bull’s head that was stolen during the Lebanese civil war.

This investigation revealed that Steinhardt bought the multimillion-dollar statue and then lent it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the office said. This statue was confiscated, as was the second marble statue of a carrying calf, which was also from Lebanon and was also bought by Steinhardt for millions of dollars.

“In the process of discovering the Lebanese statues, the district attorney’s office learned that Steinhardt had additional looted antiques in his apartment and office, and shortly thereafter initiated a criminal investigation by a grand jury into his acquisition, possession and sale of more than 1,000 antiques. since 1987, “the office said.

“As part of this investigation into Steinhardt’s criminal conduct, the District Attorney’s Office executed 17 court search warrants and conducted joint investigations with law enforcement agencies in 11 countries: Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Syria and Turkey. “, – the message says.

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Vance said in a statement, “For decades, Michael Steinhardt has displayed a predatory appetite for looted artifacts without worrying about the legitimacy of his actions, the legitimacy of the works he bought and sold, or the severe cultural damage he has done around the world.”

“His pursuit of ‘new’ additions to display and sell knew no geographic or moral boundaries, as reflected in the vast underworld of antiquities dealers, crime bosses, money launderers and tomb robbers he relied on to expand his collection,” said Vance.

In 2019 The New York Times reported that six women accused Steinhardt of sexual harassment. He denied the charges.

The Times report, which also cites another woman’s lawsuit, said he made sexual appeals when women sought support from a philanthropist. The Times also reported that Steinhardt was featured in two sexual harassment lawsuits, but was not named as a defendant in either of these cases.

The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life called the Times report “deliberately defamatory.”

But in a statement, the foundation also said that “Steinhardt’s sense of humor may be insensitive and he apologized for the unintended bad feelings caused by his remarks.” The site has a statement from a billionaire who denies attempting to inappropriately touch anyone.

Vance’s office detailed a number of Steinhardt’s items.

They include:

  • A stag head rhyton depicting an exquisitely carved stag head in the shape of a ceremonial libation vessel, purchased from the Merrin Gallery for $ 2.6 million in November 1991. A piece dating from 400 BC E., first appeared without origin in international art. market after rampant robbery in Milas, Turkey. In March 1993, Steinhardt loaned the Deer Head Rhyton to the Met, where he remained until the district attorney filed an application and received a warrant for his arrest. Today Stag’s Head Rhyton is valued at $ 3.5 million.
  • Larnax, a small chest for human remains from the Greek island of Crete, dating from 1400–1200. BC, was acquired from renowned antiquities dealer Eugene Alexander through the FAM Services headquarters in the Seychelles for $ 575,000 in October 2016. Alexander instructed Steinhardt to pay for FAM services through Satabank, a financial institution in Malta that was later suspended for money laundering. During a complaint about a subpoena requesting documentation of the origin of another stolen antiquity, Steinhardt pointed to Larnax and told an ATU investigator, “Do you see this piece? He has no origin. If I see a piece and I like it, then I buy it. “Today Larnax is valued at $ 1 million.
  • Ercolano’s mural was purchased from convicted antiquities dealer Robert Hecht and his antiquities restorer Harry Burke without prior provenance for $ 650,000 in November 1995. A fresco of Hercules, depicting the infant Hercules strangling a snake sent by Hera to kill him, dates from AD 50. E. And was plundered. in 1995 from a Roman villa on the ruins of Herculaneum, located near modern Naples in the shadow of Vesuvius. It first appeared on the international art market on November 10, 1995, when Hecht’s business partner wrote to Steinhardt that “a box will be delivered to you soon” with the artifact inside. Today, the Ercolano Fresco mural is valued at $ 1 million.
  • Gold bowl stolen from Nimrud, Iraq and purchased from Svyatoslav Konkin without prior origin for $ 150,000 in July 2020. Since 2015, items from Nimrud have been trafficked when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) targeted cultural heritage from Nimrud. , Hatra and Khorsabad, especially ancient objects made of gold or precious metals. The gold bowl, made of gold with a scalloped floral pattern, first hit the international art market in October 2019, when a customs and border patrol officer notified the district attorney’s office that Konkin was on a flight from Hong Kong to Newark, NY. Jersey carrying Steinhardt’s Golden Cup. Today the Golden Cup is valued at $ 200,000.
  • The three death masks were purchased from renowned antiquities dealer Gil Chayi for $ 400,000 in October 2007, less than a year after they hit the international art market. Death masks (circa 6000-7000 BC) were created from stone and originated in the foothills of the Judean Mountains, most likely in Shefele in Israel. In photographs recovered by Israeli law enforcement agencies, they appear to be covered with a crust of earth and mud. Today, Death Masks are valued at $ 650,000.

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