Authorities seized millions of dollars of artifacts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Manhattan district attorney’s office confirmed Friday.
At least 95 items were repossessed since February that prosecutors say were looted from Italy and Egypt by antiquities traffickers, 27 of which ended up in the Met’s collection.
The Manhattan district attorney will host repatriation ceremonies with Italy and Egypt next week. Authorities will return 58 pieces to Italy - 21 of which came from the Met’s collection - and 16 to Egypt, of which six came from the Met.
The New York Times first reported on the seizures.
“Each of these objects has unique and complex circumstances, and with all, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has been fully supportive of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office investigations,” the museum said in a statement. “The norms of collecting have changed significantly in recent decades, and The Met’s policies and procedures in this regard have been under constant review over the past 20 years.”
The 27 artifacts from the Met are valued at more than $13 million, prosecutors confirmed. Some of the items were provided to the museum by Gianfranco Becchina, a gallery operator based in Switzerland who was previously investigated by Italian authorities.
The Manhattan district attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit has been active in recent weeks, announcing the return of a 14th century sculpture to Nepal on Aug. 24. The sculpture was first stolen in the 1960s.
“A single piece stolen from any country is one too many,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a release announcing the handover of the Durga Steele, a Hindu depiction of the goddess Durga.
On Tuesday, Bragg returned two books authored by a Catholic nun in the 17th century to the Spanish government. The books by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz resurfaced in 2011 before eventually being auctioned in New York in 2021, when the Antiquities Trafficking Unit seized them.
In July, Bragg returned 142 antiquities to the Italian government that were seized during an investigation that concluded before he took office. The items were valued at almost $14 million, officials said. Included in the 142 items returned were 60 from the Royal-Athena Galleries in Midtown, 48 were from art collector Michael Steinhardt, and an additional 34 from other investigations.
“There are far too many important cultural artifacts being illegally looted and trafficked across the globe, and we will continue to conduct these investigations in coordination with our law enforcement partners,” Bragg said at the time.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story misstated the number of items recovered from art collector Michael Steinhardt by the Manhattan district attorney's office.