Marble sarcophagus piece returned to Greece

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photo courtesy Manhattan District Attorney’s Office

An ancient marble sarcophagus fragment to the Hellenic Republic during was returned Greece during a repatriation ceremony Feb. 10, 2017, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

As part of an ongoing joint investigation in January, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office seized pursuant to a search warrant the ancient marble sarcophagus fragment from a gallery in Midtown Manhattan, where it was displayed as the centerpiece. The item, which originally dates back to 200 A.D. and depicts a battle between Greek and Trojan warriors, was stolen from Greece in 1988. The artifact was then smuggled abroad and transported through Europe before finally landing in New York. 

Once presented with evidence of the theft, the Manhattan-based art gallery forfeited the item willingly, and the repatriation ceremony represents the return of the ancient sarcophagus fragment to Greece, where it will be displayed for public view and research at the National Archeological Museum of Athens.


The sarcophagus in the garage, and other finds returned to Egypt

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Found in a Brooklyn garage, this nesting sarcophagus is headed back to Egypt. Photo courtesy of ICE.

Found in a Brooklyn garage, this nesting sarcophagus is headed back to Egypt. Photo courtesy of ICE.

Here’s the latest on repatriation efforts from Operation Mummy’s Curse:

ICE returns ancient artifacts to Egypt at National Geographic Society

WASHINGTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement repatriated dozens of illegally smuggled ancient artifacts to the government of Egypt, including a Greco-Roman style Egyptian sarcophagus, at a ceremony Wednesday at the National Geographic Society in Washington.

The return of these ancient artifacts was made possible by “Operation Mummy’s Curse,” an ongoing five-year investigation by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations targeting an international criminal network that illegally smuggled and imported more than 7,000 cultural items from around the world.

On Sept. 8, 2009, HSI New York recovered the nesting sarcophagus from a garage in Brooklyn, New York. One year later, on Sept. 24, 2010, following leads from the Brooklyn case, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport seized a shipment of smuggled Egyptian goods, including a funerary boat model and figurines. A related December 2010 shipment interception netted agents 638 ancient coins from different countries, 65 of which are being repatriated to Egypt today.

Other antiquities returned include two Middle Kingdom wooden boat models and a series of finely carved limestone reliefs from an Egyptian temple.

All aboard for a return trip to Egypt. Photo courtesy of ICE.

All aboard for a return trip to Egypt. Photo courtesy of ICE.

The ongoing investigation has identified a criminal network of smugglers, importers, money launderers, restorers and purchasers who used illegal methods to avoid detection as these items entered the United States. Items and funds were traced back to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Iraq and other nations.

To date, Operation Mummy’s Curse has secured four indictments, two convictions, 19 search warrants, and 16 seizures totalling approximately $3 million. The agency is also seeking an international fugitive involved in the case.

Cannon and other loot returned to Italy

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Cannon and other loot returned to Italy. Photo courtesy of ICE.

Cannon and other loot returned to Italy. Photo courtesy of ICE.

Earlier this week, a sarcophagus lid, ancient artillary and other stolen artifacts were returned to Italy after turning up in the United States.
Here’s the latest from ICE:

NEW YORK — U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement offices returned 19 cultural treasures to the Italian government this week. The artifacts, including a 17th century cannon, 5th century Greek pottery and items dating to 300-460 B.C., were looted from their Italian owners and smuggled into the United States during the last several years.

HSI offices in New York, Boston, Buffalo, Baltimore, Miami, San Diego and San Francisco, with assistance provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Italy’s Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale Rome Office (TPC), seized the artifacts during 11 separate investigations. Homeland Security Investigations New York returned six objects Wednesday including “sleeping beauty,” an ancient Roman marble sarcophagus lid of Sleeping Ariadne, which was smuggled out of Italy.


Sarcophagus lid seized

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Detail of a sarcophagus lid seized as part of an antiquities investigation. Photo courtesy Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

  A sarcophagus lid allegedly removed from Italy and sold by a Swiss antiquities smuggler has been seized in the United States. More on the case below:

HSI seizes Roman sarcophagus lid linked to convicted art smuggler
Feb. 28, 2014

NEW YORK – Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Friday seized an ancient Roman marble sarcophagus lid featuring a high-relief sculpture of a sleeping woman.

According to Italian authorities, the piece matches photographs found in the files of a convicted antiquities dealer. A forfeiture complaint was filed Thursday in federal court. As alleged in the complaint, the antiquity is the property of Italy and is therefore forfeitable as stolen property that was unlawfully introduced into the United States.

Gianfranco Becchina, an Italian citizen, operated an antiquities gallery in Basel, Switzerland. In February 2011, he was convicted in an Italian court of illicitly dealing in antiquities. During the investigation that led to his conviction, Swiss and Italian authorities searched Becchina’s Swiss gallery and warehouse and seized Italian archeological artifacts, commercial documents and photographs of thousands of artifacts that Becchina had sold. Among the documents in Becchina’s archive were photographs, commercial records and customs paperwork pertaining to the marble sarcophagus lid.

According to these records, Becchina purchased the marble sarcophagus lid in Italy and shipped it to his gallery in Switzerland in 1981. Thirty years later, the marble sarcophagus lid, now restored, reappeared at a public exhibition in New York. On Feb. 20, HSI agents located the antiquity in a storage facility in Long Island City, New York.

HSI Rome also assisted in this investigation.