Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., on Friday announced the return of an ancient Greek marble sarcophagus fragment to the Hellenic Republic, during a repatriation ceremony attended by the Consul General of Greece in New York, Dr. Konstantinos Koutras, and ICE Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Brett Dreyer.
“I thank our partners for their commitment to ending the trade of stolen antiquities, and today, I am gratified to return another treasured artifact to its rightful owner, the Hellenic Republic and people of Greece,” said District Attorney Vance.
Consul General of Greece, Dr. Koutras stated, “On behalf of the Hellenic Republic, I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks to the District Attorney of Manhattan, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., for his contribution to this achievement, as we proudly accept a part of our heritage.”
The Repatriation Ceremony followed the recovery of the Artifact, which was stolen and smuggled abroad in the 1980s.
Dr. Koutras also added, “This marvellous marble sarcophagus dated around the 2nd century A.D. will now be returned where it belongs, to Greece. It will be displayed at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens with a special reference that will point out the decisive contribution of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for its repatriation. Sadly, in the past, our country has suffered from cruel and continued smuggling of its antique artifacts, and even to this day, a very important part of our heritage remains scattered throughout the world.”
As part of an ongoing joint investigation with partners in international law enforcement, in January, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office seized pursuant to a search warrant the ancient marble sarcophagus fragment from a gallery in Midtown Manhattan, where it was displayed as the centrepiece. The item, which originally dates back to 200 A.D. and depicts a battle between Greek and Trojan warriors, was stolen from Greece in 1988. The artifact was then smuggled abroad and transported through Europe before finally landing in New York.
Once presented with evidence of the theft, the Manhattan-based art gallery forfeited the item willingly, and the repatriation ceremony represents the return of the ancient sarcophagus fragment to Greece, where it will be displayed for public view and research at the National Archeological Museum of Athens.