The handover of the articles comes after an investigation that began in 2017 into the “criminal conduct” of billionaire Steinhardt, the DA’s office said in a statement.
“The seized pieces were looted and illegally taken out of 11 countries, trafficked by 12 criminal smuggling networks and had no verifiable provenance before appearing on the international art market, according to the narrative summarizing the ‘investigation,’ the office said.
The deal, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, ends a grand jury investigation into Steinhardt, which means he will not face criminal charges in the case, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Vance said the deal with Steinhardt, 80, will result in the return of stolen items to their rightful owners in those countries instead of being withheld as evidence “to complete the grand jury indictment, trial, the potential conviction and sentence ”.
The deal comes three years after Steinhardt’s office and home were raided by investigators as part of Vance’s investigation. The DA said Steinhardt’s agreement to accept a lifetime ban on the acquisition of antiques was “unprecedented.” Agreement defines antiques as artifacts created before AD 1500
“While Steinhardt’s disregard for the rights of peoples to their own sacred treasures for decades has been appalling, the interests of pre-charge and trial justice favor a resolution that ensures that a substantial portion of the damage done to the World cultural heritage will be repaired, once and for all, ”said Vance.
The agreement notes that “Steinhardt maintains that he did not commit any crime related to his acquisition, possession or sale of antiques.”
On the other hand, Vance’s office “maintains that the evidence would establish at trial that Steinhardt bought, sold and otherwise traded in antiques and that he knew, or should have verified by a reasonable investigation, that the antiques listed in the piece A were stolen, ”the agreement says.
” However, [Vance’s office] has determined that the equity in this matter and the interests of pre-charge and trial justice advance the resolution contained in this Agreement. “
Steinhardt founded his firm Steinhardt Partners LLP in 1967. He closed the hedge fund in 1995. He was also Chairman of the Board of Wisdom Tree Investments for 15 years before retiring in 2019.
Steinhardt’s attorneys Andrew Levander and Theodore Wells Jr. said in a statement: “Mr. Steinhardt is pleased that the District Attorney’s multi-year investigation has ended without charge and that the items wrongly taken by d others are returned to their countries of origin. countries. “
“Many of the dealers from whom Mr. Steinhardt purchased these items have made specific statements as to the dealers’ legitimate title to the items and their presumed provenance,” the attorneys said. “Insofar as these representations were false, Mr. Steinhardt reserved the right to seek redress from the dealers involved. “
The DA’s office said the investigation began when investigators examined a statue of a Lebanese bull’s head, which was stolen during the Lebanese civil war.
This investigation determined that Steinhardt purchased the multi-million dollar statue and then loaned it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the office said. This statue was seized, along with a second marble statue of a calf bearer, who was also from Lebanon and which had also been purchased by Steinhardt for millions of dollars.
“During the process of discovering the Lebanese statues, the prosecutor’s office learned that Steinhardt had other antiques looted from his apartment and office and, shortly thereafter, opened a criminal investigation with a grand jury into his acquisition. , possession and sale of more than 1000 antiques. since at least 1987, ”the office said.
“As part of this investigation into Steinhardt’s criminal conduct, the prosecutor’s office executed 17 court-ordered search warrants and conducted joint investigations with law enforcement in 11 countries: Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Syria and Turkey, ”he said.
“His quest for ‘new’ additions to present and sell knew no geographic or moral boundaries, as evidenced by the sprawling underworld of antique dealers, crime bosses, money launderers and grave robbers. that he relied on to expand his collection, ”said Vance.
In 2019, the New York Times reported that six women accused Steinhardt of sexual harassment. He denied the allegations.
The Times report, which also cited a complaint filed by another woman, said he made sexual demands when the women asked for the philanthropist’s support. The Times also reported that Steinhardt appeared in two sexual harassment trials but was not named as an accused in both cases.
The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life called the Times report “intentionally defamatory.”
But in a statement, the foundation also said that “Steinhardt’s sense of humor can be callous, and he apologized for the unintentional bad feelings his remarks caused.” The website includes a statement from the billionaire, who denies ever trying to inappropriately touch someone.
Vance’s office detailed a number of articles submitted by Steinhardt.
- The Stag’s Head Rhyton, depicting a finely crafted deer’s head in the form of a ceremonial libation vessel, purchased from the Merrin Gallery for $ 2.6 million in November 1991. The object, which dates from 400 BC C.E., appeared for the first time without provenance on the international art market after the widespread looting of Milas, Turkey. In March 1993, Steinhardt loaned the Stag’s Head Rhyton to the Met, where it remained until the DA’s office applied for and received a warrant to seize it. Today, the Stag’s Head Rhyton is valued at $ 3.5 million.
- The Larnax, a small chest for human remains from the Greek island of Crete which dates between 1400 and 1200 BCE, purchased from known antiques dealer Eugene Alexander via FAM Services, headquartered in Seychelles, for 575,000 $ in October 2016. Alexander asked Steinhardt to pay FAM Services through Satabank, a Malta-based financial institution later suspended for money laundering. While complaining about a subpoena requesting provenance documents for another stolen antiquity, Steinhardt pointed to the Larnax and told an ATU investigator, “See this piece? I buy it. Today, the Larnax is valued at $ 1 million.
- The Ercolano Fresco was purchased from convicted antiques dealer Robert Hecht and his unreleased antiques restorer Harry Burki for $ 650,000 in November 1995. Depicting a baby Hercules strangling a snake sent by Hera to kill him, l ‘Ercolano Fresco dates from 50 CE and was looted in 1995 from a Roman villa in the ruins of Herculaneum, located near modern Naples in the shadow of Vesuvius. It first appeared on the international art market on November 10, 1995 when Hecht’s business partner wrote to Steinhardt about a “crate that will be delivered to you soon” with the artifact inside. . Today, the Ercolano Fresco is valued at $ 1 million.
- The gold bowl looted in Nimrud, Iraq, and purchased from Svyatoslav Konkin with no previous provenance for $ 150,000 in July 2020. As of 2015, objects from Nimrud were trafficked when the state Islamic in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has targeted the cultural heritage of Nimrud, Hatra and Khorsabad, in particular ancient objects in gold or precious metal. The gold bowl, which is made from gold with a scalloped floral design, first appeared on the international art market in October 2019, when a customs and border patrol officer notified the office from the prosecutor that Konkin was on a flight from Hong Kong to Newark, New Jersey, carrying the Gold Bowl for Steinhardt in his hand. Today, the Gold Bowl is valued at $ 200,000.
- Three death masks bought from known antiques dealer Gil Chaya without any provenance for $ 400,000 in October 2007, less than a year after their appearance on the international art market. Death masks (circa 6000-7000 BCE) were made from stone and originated in the foothills of the Judean mountains, most likely in the Shephelah in Israel. They appear encrusted with dirt and covered in dirt in photographs recovered by Israeli law enforcement authorities. Today, the death masks are valued at $ 650,000.