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Manhattan DA Returns Ancient Sarcophagus Fragment To Greece Nearly 30 Years After Smuggling

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Manhattan District Attorney's office on Friday announced the return of a fragment of an ancient marble sarcophagus fragment to Greece.

As part of a continuing investigation with partners in international law enforcement, the DA's office went into a gallery in Midtown Manhattan with a search warrant and seized the fragment, which was on display as a centerpiece.

The fragment dates back to 200 A.D. and depicts a battle between Greek and Trojan warriors, the DA's office said. It was stolen from Greece in 1988, and was smuggled abroad and transported through Europe before finally ending up in New York, the DA's office said.

Once presented with evidence that it had been stolen, the Manhattan-based gallery handed the item over willingly.

The fragment is going back to Greece, where it will be displayed for public view and research at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

"Trafficked antiquities often acquire a veneer of legitimacy after the passage of time or changes in ownership," DA Cyrus Vance said in a news release. "Galleries, auction houses, and art collectors, however, should be on alert that my Office and our partners in law enforcement are closely following the listing and sale of items of suspicious or dubious provenance."

"Sadly, in the past, our country has suffered from cruel and continued smuggling of its antique artifacts, and even to this day, a very important part of our heritage remains scattered throughout the world," consul general of Greece Dr. Konstantinos Koutras added in the release.

Greece Sarcophagus Fragment
(l-r) Consul General of Greece in New York, Dr. Konstantinos Koutras, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., and ICE Homeland Security Investigations Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Brett Dreyer announce that a stolen fragment of an ancient sarcophagus has been returned to Greece nearly 30 years after being smuggled out. (Credit: Manhattan District Attorney's Office)

The Manhattan DA's office has recovered and returned several ancient artifacts as part of criminal investigations and prosecutions.

In August 2014, five coins dating as far back as 515 B.C. were returned to Greece after coin collector Arnold Peter Weiss was charged with and later convicted of attempted criminal prosecution of stolen property, the DA's office said. He had several coins he believed had been stolen dekadrachma and tetradrachma from the Sicilian cities of Agrigento and Catania.

In April 2016, a 2nd century Buddhist sculpture worth more than $1 million was returned to Pakistan after the investigation and prosecution of Tatsuzo Kaku, who had been selling stolen antiquities smuggled from South Asia.

In May and June 2016, two bronze statues and four carved artifacts dating to the 10th and 11th centuries A.D., valued at several million dollars, were returned to India as part of a series of seizures of stolen antiquities.

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