Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. returns 19 antiquities collectively valued at nearly $19 million to the people of Italy. The pieces were seized pursuant to several ongoing investigations against major antiquities traffickers, including Giovanni Franco Becchina, Eugene Alexander, Raffaele Monticelli, Jerome Eisenberg and Edoardo Almagià.
The pieces were returned during a repatriation ceremony at the Italian Consulate with Minister of Culture Gennaro Sangiuliano, Ambassador to Italy Mariangela Zappia, New York Consul General Fabrizio Di Michele, and Special Agent in Charge at Homeland Security Investigations, New York Ivan J. Arvelo.
“Italy has been an epicenter of organized antiquities looting for decades, but we continue to undo the damage thanks to our incredible team of investigators, analysts, and prosecutors. I thank the Italian government for its continued extraordinary cooperation, and our colleagues at HSI for their partnership. During my tenure, I am proud to have returned more than 275 objects back to the people of Italy” said District Attorney Bragg.
Minister of Culture of Italy, Gennaro Sangiuliano said: “I wish to thank Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, his Office and Homeland Security Investigations for their effective cooperation with Italian Carabinieri, a gold standard in the international fight against illicit trafficking of cultural goods. Together, in the last twelve months, they have traced and recovered hundreds of looted or stolen Italian antiquities and returned them to the communities they belong. Cultural heritage is the soul of a Nation. We are grateful to American authorities for their support in our efforts to bring illicitly traded Italian art back home.”
“These 19 artifacts date back as far as 6th century B.C.E., and each tells a story we could expect to read about in books. From a Corinthian helmet to a statue of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, we are honored to have had a hand in giving these stories their happy endings,” said Ivan J. Arvelo, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations, New York. “HSI New York is proud to be able to reunite our Italian partners with a small piece of their rich heritage.”
The traffickers subject to the Office’s ongoing investigations led highly lucrative criminal enterprises – often in competition with one another – where they would use local looters to raid archaeological sites throughout Italy, usually in the middle of the night. After being looted, the traffickers would arrange for the pieces to be cleaned, restored, and supplied with false provenance, before offering them for sale at auction houses and galleries around the world, often using Robin Symes as their intermediary.
Image : Apulian Plate
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