Thirty Greek antiquities, collectively valued at $3.7 million, are being repatriated to Greece, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. announced Friday.
The items include a marble Aphrodite that was recovered from a storage unit owned by convicted trafficker Robin Symes, where it had been hidden since at least 1999; a 4,000-year-old Cycladic marble figure seized by the ATU earlier this year from a warehouse owned by a New York-based private collector; and a bronze Corinthian helmet smuggled out of Greece, faked from Germany, and placed on consignment with New York-based art dealer Michael Ward, who pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal facilitation and admitted to purchasing stolen antiques on consignment. via his gallery as part of a money laundering scheme allegedly orchestrated by Eugene Alexander.
Nineteen of the pieces were voluntarily returned to Ward, while three were seized from Symes.
The pieces were returned during a repatriation ceremony attended by Consul General Konstantinos Konstantinou, Secretary General of Culture Georgios Didaskalou and Deputy Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Homeland Security Investigations Thomas Acocella.
“This is an exquisite collection of 30 antiquities that represent the extraordinary depth and beauty of Greek cultural heritage. These cases are a team effort, and I am extremely grateful to each of the analysts and prosecutors in my Office who worked tirelessly to bring these pieces home. We will continue to aggressively investigate those who use Manhattan as a base for trafficking in stolen antiquities,” Bragg said.
“Cultural heritage is an integral part of our identity as a people and a nation. It is therefore essential, and today crucial, to protect and preserve cultural heritage for future generations. I express my gratitude for the continued 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.
The Consul General of Greece in New York, Ambassador Dinos Konstantinou, said he was “truly grateful” for the efforts undertaken by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and all those who worked to make the return of these items possible. where they rightfully belong.
“Their monetary value is millions of dollars, but their real value goes well beyond that. They are invaluable to the Greek people,” he added.
Konstantinou also thanked Assistant Prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos for his efforts. “Investigating the trafficking of art objects and archaeological objects is not an easy task. Combating the smuggling of cultural property across the world requires thorough investigations and effective cooperation between law enforcement authorities. The return of these objects to our country testifies to its unwavering commitment to the fight against the illegal trade in antiquities,” he added.
Acting Special Agent Erin Keegan, Homeland Security Investigations in New York, said these 30 artifacts represent some of the most important relics of the past, “playing a crucial role in shaping the vibrant Greek culture that we see today.”
“A nation’s precious history should never be stolen, peddled or marketed for sale. Yet for years these antiquities have been kept in collectors’ homes, prestigious institutions and even in storage lockers” , she added.