Investigators Remove Artifacts From Met With Search Warrants

Repatriations to Italy and Egypt are planned for next week
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 3, 2022 4:10 PM CDT
Investigators Remove Artifacts From Met With Search Warrants
Daniel Kritenbrink, from right, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, places Jasmine bouquets on returning artifacts with Cambodian Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona and US Ambassador W. Patrick Murphy during a ceremony for a return of artifacts at Cambodia's...   (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

More artifacts are on their way back to other countries after investigators bearing search warrants took them from the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Manhattan District Attorney's Office announced that 27 ancient objects, valued at more than $13 million, were seized after a determination that they had been looted, the New York Times reports. "We have two repatriation ceremonies next week, one with Italy and one with Egypt," a spokesman for the district attorney's office told CNN. "Fifty-eight objects will go back to Italy, 21 from the Met. Sixteen to Egypt, six from the Met."

Authorities said the quick shipments are part of an effort to speed up such repatriations, which often have taken more than a year, as well as to combat illegal sales of ancient objects. "It should be no secret to collectors, art museums, and auction houses that they may be in possession of pieces from known traffickers that were illegally looted," District Attorney Alvin Bragg said. The investigations have made public information that the art world should be able to use "to return antiquities to where they rightfully belong," he said. The office said the effort has led to the repatriation of almost 2,000 objects so far.

New York officials returned 30 antiquities to Cambodia a month ago, and stolen objects with a value of almost $14 million to Italy in July. Eight items pulled from the Met in the search came directly from Gianfranco Becchina, who had a gallery in Switzerland for decades and was long suspected of illegal trade. The Met, which said it's cooperating with the investigation, came into their possession before accusations against Becchina surfaced, however. One object investigators removed from the Met is a terra-cotta kylix—a drinking cup—dating to 470 BC. Valued at $1.2 million, it was bought in 1979 from the Becchina gallery. (Read more Metropolitan Museum of Art stories.)

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