Patterns seized from US billionaire have been returned to Israel

New York prosecutors have announced that they will return য়ে 5 million worth of looted artefacts seized from billionaire hedge fund manager Michael Steinhard to Israel.

NEW YORK – Prosecutors in New York on Tuesday announced the return to Israel of $ 5 million worth of looted artefacts seized from billionaire hedge fund manager Michael Steinhard, who is well-known as a patron of the Steinhard cultural organization.

Among the 39 items being returned to Israel are two gold masks from around 5000 BC valued at $ 500,000 and a set of three death masks valued at 6000 to 7000 BC and a total of $ 650,000, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said.

“These rare and beautiful specimens, which are thousands of years old, have been kept out of the public eye due to illegal looting and trafficking,” Bragg said. “My office is proud to be able to return to the historic antiquities where they are right.”

Authorities say the items, obtained illegally in Israel, are part of a $ 70 million worth of stolen antiquities that Steinhart agreed to return in December in a deal to avoid a lawsuit.

Under the treaty, Steinhardt was permanently barred from acquiring antiquities. Items seized from Steinhard have previously been returned to Greek and Jordanian authorities.

A message was sent to Steinhard’s attorney seeking comment on Tuesday’s announcement. His attorneys have previously said that the dealers from whom Steinhard bought antiques represented him as having a valid title to the patterns.

Of the 39 items returned to Israel, 28 were handed over to Israeli authorities on Tuesday. Three were already on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and eight have not yet been found but will be returned as soon as they are found, the district attorney’s office said. Several specimens returning to Israel were looted from the occupied West Bank.

In addition, a 3,000-year-old spoon used to burn incense has been seized by Palestinian authorities, prosecutors said.

Ethan Klein, deputy director of the anti-theft unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said the artefacts were “invaluable to the state of Israel and its people.” They symbolize our rich and vast cultural heritage. Now they are being returned to their rightful owners. “

Klein said his office is proud to be part of an investigation into the looted artwork, including the district attorney and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Steinhard, 81, founded the hedge fund Steinhardt Partners in 1967 and closed it in 1995. He retired in 2004 as head of Wisdom Tree Investment.

Steinhard is a major donor to Jewish philanthropy and co-founder of Birthright, a program that brings North American Jewish youth on free trips to Israel. He is a patron of the Israel Museum, which contains three specimens confiscated by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, as well as several other Israeli cultural institutions that bear his name, including a natural history museum at Tel Aviv University.

Following the AP’s report that Steinhard’s name still appears in his looted works of art at the Israel Museum, the Hebrew-language daily Haaretz published an editorial calling for his name to be removed from the institution’s walls.

The Israel Museum has removed Steinhard’s name from the labels of two neolithic masks displayed in its gallery.

Israeli antiquities authorities say that upon their return to Israel, the confiscated artefacts from Steinhard will be kept in a storage facility outside Jerusalem and there are no immediate plans to show them to the public.


Ben Zion reports from Jerusalem.

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