Hedge fund founder and Jewish philanthropist Michael Steinhardt accepts a deal that will see him barred for life from owning antiquities after investigators found he bought over 1,000 stolen objects.
Justice Department officials in New York said on Monday that the stolen objects have an estimated value of $70 million, and that include a Greek drinking vessel fashioned in the shape of a deer’s head dating from 400 BC and worth $3.5 million, and an ancient Greek larnax — a kind of funerary box — dating from between 1200 to 1400 BC and worth a million dollars.
“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,” Vance said in a statement along with the announcement, which came after a years-long investigation.
Vance said the New York financier, estimated by Forbes to be worth $1.2 billion, “knew no geographic or moral boundaries, as reflected in the sprawling underworld of antiquities traffickers, crime bosses, money launderers, and tomb raiders he relied upon to expand his collection.”
The offices of Steinhardt’s hedge fund and his Fifth Avenue apartment have been raided in recent years by Vance’s detectives.
The district attorney has made it a priority to track stolen works — seizing some from museums, private collections or auction houses — and return them to their rightful owners, including in Italy, Lebanon, Pakistan and Greece.
Back in 2018 during a raid seized were Proto-Corinthian figures from the seventh century B.C., depicting an owl and a duck, together worth about $250,000.
The other pieces included an Apulian terra-cotta flask in the shape of an African head from the fourth century B.C.; an Ionian sculpture of a ram’s head from the sixth century; and an attic aryballos, a vessel for oil or perfume, from the early fifth century.
Despite Steinhardt’s “decades-long indifference to the rights of peoples to their own sacred treasures,” Vance said he had no immediate plans to charge the billionaire.
“The interests of justice prior to indictment and trial favour a resolution that ensures that a substantial portion of the damage to world cultural heritage will be undone, once and for all,” he said.
“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.