New York returns 200 stolen antiquities to Italy

A New York prosecutor announced Wednesday the return of 200 antiquities valued at $10 million to Italy, the latest stolen artworks to be recovered by United States investigators.

Roman vases at the Altes Museum in Berlin.
Roman vases at the Altes Museum in Berlin. Photo: Gary Todd/Flickr

The works include a ceramic vessel dated from the 7th Century BCE called “Pithos with Ulysses” and a terracotta image of a goddess entitled “A Head of a Maiden” from the 4th Century BCE.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said 150 of the artifacts related to his office’s investigation into Edoardo Almagia.

He was an Italian New York-based antiquities dealer who left the United States in 2003.

Vance said Almagia was investigated in Italy for trafficking and selling looted artifacts to US buyers but remains at large.

Vance added that 100 of the returned artworks had been seized from the Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art in New York.

This latest batch of returned antiquities represents just some of the stolen artefacts the US has restored to Italy in recent years.

In 2017, US officials returned artefacts worth at least $90,000, dating back as far as the 8th century BC, that had been stolen in the 1990s from burial sites and places of archaeological significance in Italy and smuggled overseas.

READ ALSO: The US just returned $90,000 worth of stolen artefacts to Italy

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance ordered that the stolen items be returned to Italy.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance ordered that the stolen items be returned to Italy. Bryan R. Smith / AFP

The items included a Sardinian bronze ox and Sardinian bronze warrior from the 8th century BC, a Greek bronze Heracles from the 3rd or 4th century BC and a 4th-century BC drinking cup depicting two goats butting heads.

In 2018, three stolen items were returned to Italy from the US after Italian Carabinieri officers from the country’s famous ‘art squad’ or cultural heritage unit saw that they had been listed for sale by a New York auction house.

The ancient Greek items – a wine carafe, a decanter for precious oils and a soup tureen – had been illegally dug out of an archaeological site in Italy and smuggled into America.

Speaking at a 2018 ‘repatriation ceremony’ held at the headquarters of the Italian Embassy in Washington, DC, where the artefacts were formally returned to the Italian government, Italy’s then-culture minister said the government planned to crack down on such crimes.

READ ALSO: Italy to crack down on art crime after stolen artefacts recovered in USA

Since August 2020, the New York district attorney’s office has returned more than 70 antiquities to 14 countries, including almost 30 relics to Cambodia, 100 artifacts to Pakistan, and almost 250 items to India.

Earlier this month, Vance announced that prominent US art collector and billionaire philanthropist Michael Steinhardt had returned 180 works of art and antiquities stolen from around the world – some from ancient Greece – that are estimated to be worth $70 million.

The move allowed the 80-year-old  to avoid indictment and trial for the time being, but bans him for life from acquiring antiques on the legal art market.

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Italy remembers murdered anti-mafia judge Falcone

Italy commemorated the death of Italian judge Giovanni Falcone on Monday, thirty years after the brutal Capaci bombing.

Italy remembers murdered anti-mafia judge Falcone

The entire country paid tribute on Monday to anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, killed by the Sicilian mafia 30 years ago in a car bomb murder that shocked the country.

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese laid a wreath at the memorial at the site of the blast at Capaci, near Palermo, that killed Falcone, his wife, and three members of his police escort on May 23rd 1992.

Another ceremony in Palermo was attended by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, whose brother Piersanti, then Sicily’s regional president, was also murdered by the mafia.

In a statement, Prime Minister Mario Draghi hailed the legacy of Falcone, saying that thanks to his “courage, professionalism and determination, Italy has become a freer and fairer country”.

He said Falcone and his colleagues – one of whom, Paolo Borsellino, was killed by Cosa Nostra two months later – “dealt decisive blows against the mafia”.

“Their heroism had rooted anti-mafia values in society, in new generations, in republican institutions,” he added, saying the “relentless fight against organised crime and […] the search for truth” must continue.

The mob used a skateboard to place a 500-kilogramme (1100-pound) charge of TNT and ammonium nitrate in a tunnel under the motorway which linked the airport to the centre of Palermo.

Falcone, driving a white Fiat Croma, was returning from Rome for the weekend. At a look-out point on the hill above, a mobster nicknamed “The Pig” pressed the remote control button as the judge’s three-car convoy passed.

The blast ripped through the asphalt, shredding bodies and metal, and flinging the lead car several hundred metres.

READ ALSO: How murdered judge Giovanni Falcone shaped Italy’s fight against the mafia

On July 19th, Borsellino was also killed in a car bomb attack, along with five members of his escort. Only his driver survived.

Falcone posed a real threat to Cosa Nostra, an organised crime group made famous by The Godfather trilogy, and which boasted access to the highest levels of Italian power.

He and Borsellino were later credited with revolutionising the understanding of the mafia, working closely with the first informants and compiling evidence for a groundbreaking ‘maxi-trial’ in which hundreds of mobsters were convicted in 1987.

“Thanks to Falcone and Borsellino, the Sicilian mafia became a notorious fact, not something that had to be proved to exist at every trial,” anti-mafia prosecutor Marzia Sabella told AFP.