Artifacts from $70 million collection handed-over to Iraqi ambassador


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SULAIMANI — The Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Saturday (January 22) the country’s ambassador to the US received five stolen antiquities collectively worth over $650,000.

The Ambassador of Iraq to the US, Fareed Yasseen, was given the artifacts during a ceremony attended by the Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and the US Homeland Security Investigations Deputy Special Agent-in-Charge Erik Rosenblatt, state media reported.

Yasseen said the artifacts will be displayed in museums "to help the Iraqi people better understand and appreciate their own history and culture with this connection to their past.”

A press release from the DA’s office said on Tuesday it had "concluded a multi-year multi-national criminal investigation” into one of the world’s most prolific collectors of ancient art, Michael Steinhardt.

According to the press release, 180 stolen antiquities were seized from Steinhardt’s collection, worth $70 million in total. Steinhardt has received a lifetime ban on receiving antiquities, which the DA’s office says is the first of its kind.

Two of the five artifacts Iraq received are from the Steinhardt collection: The "Golden Bowl,” taken from Nimrud and valued at $200,000 and the "Ivory Plaque,” which first showed up on the art market in 1994 and is valued at $450,000. They date from the seventh and eight centuries B.C.

The DA’s office said in its press release the Golden Bowl appeared on the art market in 2019 and was possibly trafficked from Iraq after the Islamic State (ISIS) seized control of archaeological sites in northern Iraq.

The other three artifacts returned were part of a separate investigation and include: A set of Mandaic scrolls valued at $8,500, and two antique cylindrical Corinthian boxes worth $15,000 each.

"These illegally trafficked relics shouldn’t be kept in the mansion of a billionaire, thousands of miles away from their homeland,” Bragg said, as quoted by the press release.

(NRT Digital Media)