Billionaire Michael Steinhardt, prominent collector of ancient artefacts, surrenders $70m of stolen art

WION Web Team
New Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Dec 10, 2021, 03:27 AM IST

Michael Steinhardt has been banned for life from acquiring antiques on the legal art market. Photograph:(Twitter)

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The artefacts he has returned are estimated to be worth a total of about $70 million

New York Justice Department officials on Monday (December 6) said that a renowned art collector, based in the United States, has returned 180 works of precious art and antiquities stolen from around the world.  

Michael Steinhardt, who is an American hedge-fund billionaire, is a major donor to institutions such as New York University and the Metropolitan Museum, which named a gallery after him.

Manhattan attorney general Cyrus Vance's office announced that the 80-year-old art collector to avoid indictment and trial for the time being. 

The Guardian stated that at least 171 items were passed through traffickers before being bought by Steinhardt. The district attorney's office said that "compelling evidence" suggested that the antiquities were stolen from 11 countries.  

Interestingly, the artefacts he has returned are estimated to be worth a total of about $70 million, the DA's office informed. Some of the items reportedly belong to ancients Greece.

However, he has been banned for life from acquiring antiques on the legal art market after the announcement, which came after years of investigation. 

Vance, in a statement, said: "For decades, Michael Steinhardt displayed a rapacious appetite for plundered artifacts without concern for the legality of his actions, the legitimacy of the pieces he bought and sold, or the grievous cultural damage he wrought across the globe." 

The items that have been recovered include a Greek drinking vessel fashioned in the shape of a deer's head dating from 400 BC and worth $3.5 million. An ancient Greek larnax, which is a kind of funerary box. It is understood that the Greek larnax dates between 1200 to 1400 BC and is worth a million dollars. 

Vance said, "The interests of justice prior to indictment and trial favor a resolution that ensures that a substantial portion of the damage to world cultural heritage will be undone, once and for all."

"This agreement guarantees that 180 pieces will be returned expeditiously to their rightful owners in 11 countries rather than be held as evidence for the years necessary to complete the grand-jury indictment, trial, potential conviction, and sentence," Vance said.