DA Bragg helps return $19 million in stolen antiquities to Italy

 October 11, 2023

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg hasn't been in the headlines much since he launched the first indictment against former President Donald Trump. 

However, according to a press release, it appears that Bragg has moved on to other tasks, including returning a number of valuable antiquities to Italy.

Bragg announced the seizure of 19 Italian antiquities valued at a staggering $19 million. The seized pieces came as a result of an investigation into a group of major antiquities traffickers.

The traffickers involved were named, and they included: "Giovanni Franco Becchina, Eugene Alexander, Raffaele Monticelli, Jerome Eisenberg and Edoardo Almagià."

What happened?

According to a press release issued by Bragg's office, the DA bragged about his involvement in helping to have the pieces returned to their rightful owners in Italy.

"Italy has been an epicenter of organized antiquities looting for decades, but we continue to undo the damage thanks to our incredible team of investigators, analysts, and prosecutors. I thank the Italian government for its continued extraordinary cooperation, and our colleagues at HSI for their partnership. During my tenure, I am proud to have returned more than 275 objects back to the people of Italy," Bragg said.

The Manhattan DA's press release noted:

The traffickers subject to the Office’s ongoing investigations led highly lucrative criminal enterprises – often in competition with one another – where they would use local looters to raid archaeological sites throughout Italy, usually in the middle of the night. After being looted, the traffickers would arrange for the pieces to be cleaned, restored, and supplied with false provenance, before offering them for sale at auction houses and galleries around the world, often using Robin Symes as their intermediary.

Given New York is a prominent world city to traffic in the illegal trade, the city has an Antiquities Trafficking Unit (ATU), which has reportedly returned over $215 million worth of antiquities to their rightful owners.

Over 1,000 antiquities from 27 countries have been recovered, so far.

Italy expresses gratitude

Minister of Culture of Italy, Gennaro Sangiuliano, released a statement praising Bragg and those who worked on the case to return the valuable items.

“I wish to thank Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, his Office and Homeland Security Investigations for their effective cooperation with Italian Carabinieri, a gold standard in the international fight against illicit trafficking of cultural goods," Sangiuliano said.

He added, "Together, in the last twelve months, they have traced and recovered hundreds of looted or stolen Italian antiquities and returned them to the communities they belong. Cultural heritage is the soul of a Nation. We are grateful to American authorities for their support in our efforts to bring illicitly traded Italian art back home."

Ivan J. Arvelo, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations, New York, added, "HSI New York is proud to be able to reunite our Italian partners with a small piece of their rich heritage."

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