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OFFBEAT

Giant prehistoric egg seized at Italian airport

An Italian man was caught trying to send a giant prehistoric egg worth more than €90,000 to the United States, Italian customs officials said on Thursday.

Giant prehistoric egg seized at Italian airport
Authorities at Bergamo Airport in Italy's northeast discovered the egg. Photo: Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli

Authorities at Bergamo Airport in the country's northeast discovered the egg – which measured 50 centimetres in length and 75 centimetre in diameter – in a parcel destined for Los Angeles.

The sender, who declared the egg's value to be less than €500, insisted it was a wedding gift.

The egg is thought to be from a so-called "bird elephant", or "Aepyornis Maximus", an emu-like creature weighing half a tonne.

Photo by Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli

The bird lived on the island of Madagascar during the Pleistocene era, which ended 12,000 years ago.

The sender told the Corriere Della Sera newspaper that his wife was Madagascan, and he had received the egg as a wedding gift.

"You can find eggs like this everywhere (in Madagascar) for a few euros. My wife collects them, her family has a few of them," he was quoted as saying.

The man could face a jail sentence and €5,000 fine for trying to export a cultural item without permission.

Photo by Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli

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CRIME

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

Prosecutors in New York on Tuesday returned dozens of antiquities stolen from Italy and valued at around $19 million, some of which were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

“These 58 pieces represent thousands of years of rich history, yet traffickers throughout Italy utilized looters to steal these items and to line their own pockets,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, noting that it was the third such repatriation in nine months.

“For far too long, they have sat in museums, homes, and galleries that had no rightful claim to their ownership,” he said at a ceremony attended by Italian diplomats and law enforcement officials.

The stolen items had been sold to Michael Steinhardt, one of the world’s leading collectors of ancient art, the DA’s office said, adding that he had been slapped with a “first-of-its-kind lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities.”

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Among the recovered treasures, which in some cases were sold to “unwitting collectors and museums,” were a marble head of the Greek goddess Athena from 200 B.C.E. and a drinking cup dating back to 470 B.C.E, officials said.

The pieces were stolen at the behest of four men who “all led highly lucrative criminal enterprises – often in competition with one another – where they would use local looters to raid archaeological sites throughout Italy, many of which were insufficiently guarded,” the DA’s office said.

One of them, Pasquale Camera, was “a regional crime boss who organized thefts from museums and churches as early as the 1960s. He then began purchasing stolen artifacts from local looters and sold them to antiquities dealers,” it added.

It said that this year alone, the DA’s office has “returned nearly 300 antiquities valued at over $66 million to 12 countries.”

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