- Billionaire hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt must return a collection of 180 stolen antiquities.
- The items are valued at $70 million and smuggled out of 11 countries by 12 criminal networks.
- A global team of 60 investigators worked the case for four years, and Steinhardt will not face charges.
One of New York’s biggest ancient art patrons must return a collection of 180 stolen antiquities worth $70 million, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced on Monday.
Billionaire hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt was found to be in possession of the relics that had been illegally smuggled from 11 countries by what Vance described as a “sprawling underworld of antiquities traffickers, crime bosses, money launderers, and tomb raiders.”
“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.
“Mr. Steinhardt is pleased that the District Attorney’s yearslong investigation has concluded without any charges, and that items wrongfully taken by others will be returned to their native countries,” Steinhardt’s lawyers, Andrew J. Levander and Theodore V. Wells, said in an emailed statement to Insider. “Mr. Steinhardt has reserved his rights to seek recompense from the dealers involved.”
One of the seized pieces — a Stag’s Head Rhyton, or ceremonial mug — had even made it into the possession of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Steinhardt and his wife have a named gallery.
According to court filings, the investigation into Steinhardt’s collection began in 2017 and involved a global team of roughly 60 academic researchers, criminal investigators, and foreign law enforcement officers.
Vance said that the agreement not to press charges will allow the pieces to be returned “expeditiously” to their countries of origin, rather than be held as evidence for an indictment and trial, which could drag on for years.
In the court filings, Steinhardt maintains that he committed no crimes, and the 81-year-old is banned under the agreement from acquiring any antiquities in the future.
The operation was led by the Antiquities Trafficking Unit, a new initiative by the DA’s office that has reportedly recovered several thousand relics worth more than $200 million. More than 1,500 objects have been returned to their countries of origin.