Dozens of Looted Antiquities Seized from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has seized dozens of ancient artifacts from the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art that the investigators believe to be looted, executing three search warrants.

The spokesperson for the District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, said that the 27 antiquities, acquired to showcase the glories of ancient Rome, Greece, and Egypt, are valued at more than $13 million and will be repatriated to their countries of origin.

Since February, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has executed several search warrants at the museum, which is allegedly cooperating with the authorities.

Bragg announced that his office has two repatriation ceremonies next week – one with Italy and one with Egypt – in which 58 objects will be returned to Italy, 21 of which were seized from the Met, while 16 will go to Egypt, six of which were from the Met.

No details were released by Bragg’s office of the provenience of the other artifacts, where they were seized from, nor what kind of artifacts was taken.

Bragg noted that the Manhattan District Attorney has clearly exposed networks of known traffickers, private collectors, art museums, and auction houses that may be in possession of illegally looted pieces and the art world can proactively use that information to return antiquities to where they rightfully belong.

The investigations of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office within their effort to return cultural artifacts to their home countries after being illegally sold to collectors or museums have so far led to the repatriation of nearly 2,000 objects and Bragg said they will continue.

Around 30 antiquities, including a 10th-century Khmer sculptural “masterpiece,” were returned to Cambodia in August by New York officials which, back in July, also returned to Italy nearly $14 million worth of stolen antiquities, including dozens of artifacts seized from US billionaire Michael Steinhardt.

Following mounting pressure to return the irreplaceable artifacts plundered during colonial times, museums in Europe began returning stolen African art to their native countries and the Met followed their steps in 2021, returning three African art objects, including a pair of 16th-century Benin brass plaques, to Nigeria.

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