Artifacts seized from U.S. billionaires returned to Israel

New York (AP) — New York prosecutors return $ 5 million worth of plundered relics from billionaire hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt to Israel, well-known as a cultural institution patronage, on Tuesday. Was announced.

According to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the 39 items returned to Israel include two gold masks (equivalent to $ 500,000) around 5000 BC and three death masks from 6000 to 7000 BC. Includes (equivalent to a total of $ 650,000).

“These rare and beautiful artifacts thousands of years ago are not open to the public due to illegal looting and trafficking,” Bragg said. “My office is proud to bring the historic relics back to where they are legitimate.”

The object that authorities say was illegally acquired in Israel is part of a $ 70 million worth of relics stolen by Steinhardt. Agreed to deliver in December In a transaction to avoid prosecution.

Under the agreement, Steinhardt is permanently banned from acquiring ancient relics.Items confiscated from Steinhardt were previously Greece When Jordan..

A message was sent to Steinhardt’s lawyer asking for comment on Tuesday’s announcement. His lawyer has previously stated that Steinhardt has stated that the dealer who purchased the relic has retained legal ownership of the artifact.

Of the 39 objects repatriated to Israel, 28 were handed over to Israeli authorities on Tuesday. 3 already Exhibited at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, And eight have not yet been discovered, but will be returned as soon as they are discovered, the District Attorney’s Office said. Some of the relics returned to Israel were plundered from the occupied West Bank.

In addition, the prosecution said the 3,000-year-old spoon used to burn the incense was retained for the Palestinian Authority.

Eitan Klein, Deputy Director of the Anti-Theft Unit of the Israeli Ancient Relics Bureau, said that ancient relics are “precious to Israel and its people. They symbolize our rich and vast cultural heritage. Now they are being returned to their legitimate owners. “

Mr. Klein said his office was proud to be able to participate in the investigation of the looted relics with the district attorney and the US Department of Homeland Security.

Steinhardt, 81, founded the hedge fund Steinhardt Partners in 1967 and closed it in 1995. He retired in 2004 and was responsible for WisdomTree Investments.

Steinhardt is a major contributor to Jewish philanthropy and co-founder of Birthright, a program that takes young North American Jews on a free trip to Israel. He is a regular guest of the Israeli Museum and has three relics seized by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and several other Israeli cultural institutions, including the Museum of Natural History at Tel Aviv University, which bears his name.

Following AP’s report that Steinhardt’s name still remains in the looted relics at the Israeli Museum, the Hebrew daily Haaretz Published an editorial I asked him to remove his name from the wall of the facility.

The Israeli Museum has removed Steinhardt’s name from the labels on the two Neolithic masks on display in the gallery.

After returning to Israel, ancient Israeli officials said the relics confiscated from Steinhardt would be stored in a storage facility outside Jerusalem and would not be open to the public.


Ben Zion reported from Jerusalem.