Looted Egyptian artefacts worth GBP 3.5 million have been returned after an international police probe into stolen treasures.
Officials say 16 rare artefacts have been returned to their homeland after the investigation into some the world’s most prolific dealers.
These investigations proved that the objects had been smuggled into the United States illegally, according to a statement Newsflash obtained from the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities on Wednesday, 7th September.
The objects include a limestone stele or stone slab bearing the inscription of a singer that was looted from a site located in the Nile Delta and dates back to 690-650 BC, as well as an enigmatic Fayum Mummy Portrait from 54-68 AD.
Nine of the 16 pieces, including a gold coin dating back to the Ptolemaic era, belonged to Michael Steinhardt, an American billionaire and antiquities collector whose net worth was at an estimated USD 1.1 billion as of October 2018.
This was after an investigation into the billionaire resulted in an additional 180 stolen objects being seized.
The 180 stolen pieces are valued at USD 70 million (GBP 60.5 million) while Steinhardt, who avoided jail by agreeing to return the objects, has been banned from collecting antiquities for life, according a separate statement Newsflash obtained from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in New York on 7th September.
Five of the recently repatriated Egyptian artefacts were seized from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in New York as a result of an investigation into the “Dib-Simonian” art trafficking network.
The investigation was carried out by American and French authorities and resulted in the arrest of former Louvre director, Jean-Luc Martinez, who was subsequently charged with “complicity of gang fraud and laundering” in May.
The 15th looted Egyptian antiquity was seized from the MET as the result of an ongoing investigation that remains under wraps, while the 16th artefact was seized from the museum and placed into custody due to an investigation into an art trafficker known as Georges Lofti.
An international warrant is out for Lofti’s arrest.
The looted objects were given back during a repatriation ceremony attended by Egypt’s Consul General, Howaida Essam Mohamed.
The Consul General stated: “Our cooperation with the New York District Attorney’s Office has been eventful and fruitful to say the least during the last few years.
“It is safe to say that we can open an entire museum solely based on the artifacts repatriated via the support and efforts of the District Attorney of New York, and for that we are eternally grateful.”
The nine artefacts that were seized from Steinhardt’s collection were trafficked into the country by two Israeli antiquities dealers known as Gil Chaya and Brown, according to the statement from the District Attorney’s office.
Brown bought objects from illegal diggers and smugglers while Chaya, along with his now ex wife, bought artefacts from looters.
These objects include a “hoard” of silver and gold ornaments that Steinhardt purchased for USD 70,000 (GBP 60,505) that date back to 1300-1100 BC.