Thirty important antiquities returned from US to Greece

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Thirty Greek antiquities, collectively valued at 3.7 million dollars, are being repatriated to Greece, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., announced on Friday.

The items include a Marble Aphrodite which was was recovered from a storage unit that belonged to the convicted trafficker Robin Symes, where it had been hidden since at least 1999; a 4,000-year-old Cycladic marble figure, seized from a storage unit belonging to a New York-based private collector by the ATU earlier this year; and a bronze Corinthian helmet that was smuggled out of Greece, given false provenance in Germany, and put on consignment with the New York-based art dealer Michael Ward who pled guilty to Criminal Facilitation in the Fourth Degree and admitted to purchasing stolen antiquities on consignment through his gallery as part of money-laundering scheme allegedly orchestrated by Eugene Alexander.

Nineteen of the pieces were voluntarily surrendered from 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 US Homeland Security Investigations Assistant Special Agent in Charge Thomas Acocella.

“This is an exquisite set of 30 antiquities that represents the extraordinary depth and beauty of Greece’s cultural heritage. These cases are a team effort and I am extremely grateful to each of the analysts and prosecutors in my Office who put in tireless work to bring these pieces home. We will continue to aggressively investigate those who are using Manhattan as a base to traffic stolen antiquities,” Bragg said.

“Cultural heritage is an integral part of our identity as people and nations. It is therefore essential and nowadays crucial to protect and preserve cultural heritage for future generations. I express my gratitude for the ongoing and fruitful cooperation with the New York District Attorney’s Office, and for the return of the 30 antiquities to Greece,” said Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni.

Greece’s Consul General in New York, Ambassador Dinos Konstantinou, said he was “truly grateful” for the efforts undertaken by the Manhattan District Attorney Office and all those who have worked to make possible the return of these artifacts back to where they rightfully belong.

“Their monetary value amounts to millions of dollars but their actual value goes far beyond that. They are priceless for the Greek people,” he added.

Konstantinou also thanked Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos for his efforts. “Investigating the trafficking of art and archeological artifacts is no easy task. Cracking down on smuggling cultural property across the globe requires thorough investigations and efficient cooperation between law enforcement authorities. The return of these artifacts to our country is a testimony to his steadfast commitment to combating illegal trade of antiquities,” he added.

Acting Special Agent in Charge Erin Keegan of Homeland Security Investigations, New York said these 30 artifacts represent some of the most significant remnants from the past, “playing a crucial role in shaping the vibrant Greek culture we see today.”

“A nation’s cherished history should never be pilfered, peddled, or marketed for sale, yet for years these antiquities were kept in collectors’ homes, prestigious institutions, and even storage lockers,” she added.

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