Artifacts taken from the U.S. billionaire were returned to Israel

New York's Prosecutors announced Tuesday the repatriation of $5 million worth looted antiquities from Michael Steinhardt, a billionaire hedge fund manager.

Artifacts taken from the U.S. billionaire were returned to Israel

The items were to be returned to Israel where Steinhardt is well-known as a patron for cultural institutions.

Two gold masks, dating back to around 5000 B.C., are among the 39 items that Israel will return. They are valued at $500,000, and a set three death masks ranging in date from 6000 to 7700 B.C. They are valued at $650,000 each, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg stated.

Bragg stated that these rare and exquisite artifacts are thousands of years old and were kept secret by illegal looting and trafficking. My office is proud to return historical antiquities back to their rightful owners.

Authorities claim that the objects were illegally obtained in Israel. They are part of $70million worth of stolen antiquities Steinhardt was willing to turn over in December as part of a deal to avoid prosecution.

Steinhardt will be permanently prohibited from purchasing antiquities under the agreement. Items taken from Steinhardt were previously returned to authorities in Greece, Jordan.

An attorney for Steinhardt was contacted to request comment on Tuesday's announcement. His lawyers previously stated that Steinhardt's dealers who bought antiquities from him represented to him that they had legal title to the artifacts.

28 of the 39 objects were handed over to Israeli authorities on Tuesday. The district attorney's office stated that three of the 39 objects were already displayed at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Eight are still missing but will be returned once they are located. Many of the artifacts that were returned to Israel were stolen from the occupied West Bank.

Prosecutors also said that a spoon from 3,000 years ago, which was used to light incense on fires, is being held by Palestinian authorities.

Eitan Klein (deputy director of the Israel Antiquities Authority's theft prevention unit) said that the antiquities are "priceless for Israel and its people." They are a symbol of our rich cultural heritage. They are now being returned to their rightful owners."

Klein stated that his office was proud to have been part of the investigation into the plunder of artifacts with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the district attorney.

Steinhardt Partners, an 81-year-old hedge fund manager, was founded by Steinhardt in 1967 and closed in 1995. In 2004, he retired to lead Wisdom Tree Investments.

Steinhardt was a major donor of Jewish philanthropies. He is also a co-founder and patron of Birthright, which brings North American Jewish youth to Israel for a free trip. He is a patron to the Israel Museum which houses three artifacts that were confiscated by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. There are also several other Israeli cultural institutions, including the Tel Aviv University natural history museum.

After the AP reported that Steinhardt's name was still on the looted artifacts of the Israel Museum, Haaretz published an editorial requesting that his name be removed from the walls.

The Israel Museum has removed Steinhardt from the labels of the two Neolithic masks it has exhibited in its galleries.

According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Steinhardt artifacts will be returned to Israel once they are there. There is no immediate plan to display them.


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