Culture & Sport

U.S. returns looted artifacts to Jordan seized from a billionaire

American authorities have returned nine looted artifacts to Jordan.

They were seized from the U.S. billionaire collector Michael Steinhardt as part of a landmark deal announced in December.

Manhattan District Attorney’s office seized 180 items from Michael Steinhardt in an agreement to surrender trafficked artifacts and avoid prosecution. Steinhardt, 81, is a hedge fund founder and philanthropist who chairs the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life.

He was not accused of stealing any items himself and he argued he did not commit any crime. But the DA’s office considered he “knew, or should have ascertained by reasonable inquiry” that the antiquities were stolen and illegally smuggled. “For decades, Michael Steinhardt displayed a rapacious appetite for plundered artifacts without concern for the legality of his actions,” the District Attorney said in December.

The Jordanian Antiquities Ministry and the U.S. Embassy in Jordan held a ceremony in Jordan’s capital, Amman, on March 1 showcasing the objects that were “illegally smuggled from Jordan and obtained by an antiquities collector in the United States,” the embassy said in a statement.

This is a testament to the United States’ commitment to help protect Jordan’s cultural heritage. With today’s repatriation of Jordanian antiquities, we are keeping this promise,” Ambassador Henry T. Wooster said.

Press statements didn’t mention Michael Steinhardt by name.

Since December, U.S. authorities have returned Steinhardt’s plundered artifacts to Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Libya, Iraq, and now Jordan.

Israel is expected to receive 40 artifacts later this month, including 22 of them that are believed to have been robbed from West Bank sites, according to court documents.

Jihad Yassin, a Palestinian Tourism and Antiquities Ministry official, said that the materials that came from the West Bank should be returned to the Palestinians, and that his department was preparing to submit a report to UNESCO about the issue.

The DA’s office explained it followed the 1995 Oslo Accords. It stated that West Bank artifacts to be returned to the Palestinians should be resolved in a peace deal.

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