American billionaire returns stolen art treasures from ancient times

American billionaire Michael Steinhardt has agreed to a lifelong ban on buying ancient art treasures after it was revealed that many objects he had purchased over the decades had dubious provenance.

He has also promised to hand in art treasures with a total value of about 70 million dollars (62 million euros). The 81-year-old Steinhardt thus avoids prosecution, reports the Manhattan District Attorney.

Predatory Hunger for Artifacts

Steinhardt, who had become rich on the stock exchange, had a “predatory appetite” for unique objects, which were often looted or stolen from museums, according to the prosecutor. Steinhardt showed that he had no “moral” limits when purchasing the items, because he regularly agreed if the seller did not tell him where he got something from.

Steinhardt says in a statement that he is happy that he is not being prosecuted and promises that the illegally obtained items will return to the countries of origin.

The prosecutor began his investigation into the billionaire in 2017. That led to a raid on his office and home. The at least 180 stolen historical artifacts come from Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia (Iraq and Syria) and Turkey.

Sold by IS

Among other things, Steinhardt hands over a ceremonial cup in the shape of a deer’s head from 400 BC to the authorities. It would have been found in present-day Turkey. The head is worth about 3.5 million dollars (more than 3 million euros). He also returns a chest from 1300 BC containing human remains, from the Greek island of Crete. The chest is valued at $1 million.

A fresco from a Roman villa from Herculaneum, the site destroyed in the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79, is also worth $1 million.

His collection also includes a gold bowl from the historic Iraqi city of Nimrud, which Steinhardt bought last year for $150,000. The shell was most likely sold on the black market by the terrorist group IS.

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