A total of 60 stolen archaeological artefacts valued at nearly GBP 18 million were returned from the United States to Italy following a criminal investigation spanning years.
Some of the repatriated finds reportedly date back to the 1st century AD.
Their total value has reportedly been estimated at around EUR 20 million (GBP 17.6 million).
Among the repatriated works are the Pompeian fresco ‘Hercules as a child with snake’ from the 1st century AD, a marble statue head of Athena and a kylix (ancient wine cup) with a white background.
The illegally acquired archaeological remains, purloined by international traffickers, were recovered in the US thanks to a joint operation between the Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage and the New York County District Attorney’s Office.
They had been offered for sale by some art brokers and then merged into US private collections after being exported abroad without the required authorizations.
The exhibits were not known to the academic world until the date of their acquisition on the antiquarian market.
These 60 assets represent the looting of Italian archaeological sites caused by traffickers in order to obtain an illicit profit.
Italy’s Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, presented the works and said: “What is happening today is thanks to the nucleus of protection and heritage of the Carabinieri, of the Italian judiciary and of effective collaboration with the United States.”
“The recovery of the cultural heritage,” Sangiuliano added, “is one of the duties of my Ministry, which I intend to pursue with determination.”
The Ministry is yet to decide on where to exhibit the artefacts.
Sangiuliano claimed there are other recovery activities in progress, which cannot yet be revealed due to confidential reasons.